Matthew P. Strecker, 45, of 11911 Thomas Road, Monroeville, was less than a quarter-mile from his home when he thought he typed out six letters on his phone — “Thanks” — and hit send. Then he hit the utility pole and sheered it in half.
The Erie County Sheriff’s Office received a call about 7:10 p.m. Wednesday reporting downed power lines and a blown transformer. However, upon arrival, deputies found there was an even bigger issue. A electrical pole had been hit and “sheered in half” after being struck by a vehicle, which apparently then fled the scene.
One of the deputies used local contacts to see if anyone had seen or heard anything. Sgt. James Greenham said a farmer told the deputy he heard the crash, but never saw the vehicle drive past his house afterward. From there, the officers were able to deduce that the vehicle likely belonged to a company that was run out of a house on the road.
“I asked him what type of vehicle it looked like and he said a utility truck, with a lot of damage and some doors off of it,” Greenham said. “He was familiar with the area and knew the residents right down the road ran a remodeling company from their home. He was familiar that they have some these type of vehicles. He also said he heard some commotion and yelling after the crash coming from that direction.”
The sergeant said the power was out as a result of the accident, so the house was dark. A look around the property produced a utility truck “with obvious severe damage all down the driver’s side.” The driveway also had debris lying in it.
Once he was able to make contact with Strecker, the owner of the home and vehicle, Greenham said the man was “very straightforward and honest.”
“He said ‘Yeah I’m the one who caused the accident,’ but claimed didn’t know he hit a pole, he just knew that he’d hit something,” Greenham said. “I asked why he left the scene of the accident and he said basically it just scared him a lot and so he just kept going to house.”
According to measurements and Strecker’s account, while distracted by the phone, Strecker drove off the west wide of Thomas Road about 200 feet, hit the pole and then continued another 41 feet before getting back on the road.
The sheriff’s office reported Thomas Road between Ohio 113 and Bryan Road in Oxford Township was closed for nearly 12 hours before reopening after 7 a.m. Thursday. Power was restored within the hour.
When Strecker was asked if he had fallen asleep behind the wheel, he said no but admitted he had been texting and driving and showed the officer his phone with the messages. The last message was sent at 7:07 p.m., Greenham said, with the call reporting the accident coming in just three minutes later.
“He (Strecker) said ‘I sent this one text message and the next thing you know I was off the road and I’d hit something,’” Greenham said.
According to the report, Strecker sustained only a small cut on his hand from the driver’s window glass breaking. There were no signs of alcohol or other causes of impairment, the report said.
Strecker was charged with failure to control, leaving the scene of an accident and texting while driving. He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 15.
“He was very upfront and honest about everything,” Greenham said. “He was more scared than he was on the phone and had caused the accident.”
PSA: Don’t text and drive
Greenham said Strecker only had exchanged a few messages, with the last one being just a few letters long. That one text. though. ultimately caused the accident that could have taken his life.
“It doesn’t take a lot,” the deputy said. “In the amount of time it took him to text ‘thanks,’ he went off the road. It only takes a split second.”
Greenham encouraged drivers to “use common sense; you need to be careful” — don’t text and drive.
“I think people get this false sense of security when they get close to home or are driving on familiar roads, that they think they can be distracted or be texting and nothing’s going to happen. (Strecker) was less than a quarter mile from his house. It was more like two-tenths of a mile.
“And then there on Thomas Road if there’s traffic, it’s one car,” Greenham added. “I think people also get a false sense of security if they’re driving on the backroads where there isn’t a lot of traffic. They think they can safely send a message. But you can see it wasn’t a car coming the other way or a person walking. He went off the road and he hit a pole.”