Two killed in Mercer Co. crash
Sunday, July 15, 2012 8:44 PM
ST. HENRY- A one-car crash has resulted in two deaths, bringing the total in Mercer County for 2012 as 12 fatalities in seven fatal wrecks.The chain of events began at 2:42 a.m. Saturday. At that time Mercer County Central Dispatch received a call of an erratic driver driving southbound at a high rate of speed on U.S. 127, south of St. Rd. 219. It is believed this is the same vehicle that had been stopped by Coldwater Police and given a warning for failure to drive in the correct lanes of travel just minutes prior to that report. Then just before 3 a.m. a crash was reported via 911 at St. Rd. 119 and Fleetfoot Rd., just southeast of St. Henry. That 2006 Pontiac GTO is the same vehicle which had been stopped by Coldwater Police less than a half-hour previously.
According to authorities, Ryan J. Billenstein, 27, Coldwater, was the driver of the westbound GTO along St. Rd. 119 at what appeared to be a high rate of speed. The vehicle went out of control and travelled off the south side of the roadway striking two trees before coming to rest. The vehicle then burst into flames. Billenstein and front seat passenger, Bethany Marie Wentworth, 21, Greenville, were taken by St. Henry EMS to Mercer Health in Coldwater.
The left-side rear seat passenger, Vincent Anthony Gragorace, 21, Greenville, was trapped in the vehicle. Right-side rear passenger, Craig A. Gengler, 22, Celina, was pulledfrom the vehicle by Billenstein.
Both Gragorace and Gengler were pronounced dead at the scene.
It is unknown at this point if the occupants were wearing safety belts or if the air bags deployed since the car was totally destroyed by the fire. The investigation is continuing.
Deputies from the Mercer County Sheriff's Office were assisted at the scene by St. Henry Fire Department, St. Henry EMS, the Mercer County Emergency Response Volunteers, and Matt Fox from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.