Courageous first responders rescue car crash driver from cliffside

By Karen Cornelius

On Thursday, October 19, at 11:15 p.m. the Vermilion Police Department received multiple calls concerning a single vehicle traffic crash in the 2300 block of Vermilion Road. It was reported the car had gone off the westside of the road and over the cliff that drops to the Vermilion River Valley. Dispatch alerted the Vermilion police, North Central EMS, and the Vermilion Fire Department to go to the scene.


According to a police news release, Sergeant Scott Holmes and officer Dale Reising went down the cliff to locate the driver, Jena Nagy, 27, of Amherst. She was located about 75 feet down from the roadway and was partly responsive. It first appeared that she had been ejected from the vehicle as the passenger and rear windows were broken and with her relative location to the vehicle. Reising stated that he and Holmes began to render first aid and stabilized her position until the fire department came to extract her from the cliffside. He said it was a difficult process due to the steep angle of the cliff and the loose ground. The officers also detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Nagy’s breath. She was moving around and complaining of back and neck pain. The officers asked her not to move so all of them would not fall all the way down the cliff, another 100 feet.


North Central EMS arrived next and advised they would have North Central AirCare’s helicopter respond to the scene. The fire department also came and began a rope rescue, back boarded the driver, loaded her into a Stokes basket, and raised her to the roadside where North Central paramedics began care. She was transported to the landing zone for the helicopter and taken to Metro Hospital for treatment.


The police report also indicated that Nagy became uncooperative with the medics and tried to refuse care. She admited she had been drinking and was told she was in police custody. She refused to submit to a test. On station, Metro Hospital was faxed a letter requesting test results for the criminal investigation to determine the presence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or both in her system. The report coming back from Metro showed .254 BAC, almost three times the legal alcohol limit.


In the meantime, a witness saw a passenger from the vehicle, Ronnie Justice, 41, exit the vehicle and make his way up the cliff to the roadway. He allegedly told the police they were drinking at Rudy’s Bar that night as they normally do. He said Nagy was driving them to his house on Baumhart Road as she was the less intoxicated of the two. Justice believed that they were going about 45-50 when the road curved to the left, but the car kept going straight off the road. According to the report, the driver did not have a seat belt on but Justice did. The vehicle was towed by L&M Towing. The car had struck multiple trees ripping parts off it and rested about 420 feet from the roadway.


On October 21, police dispatch contacted Metro and was told Nagy was released on October 20. She and Justice were contacted to come to the police station. Nagy said she could not, she had to work. It was found she did not. Units were then dispatched to Justice’s house where both subjects were located and brought back to the station by Patrolman Davis and served with their charges. The additional charge for OVI BAC.254 was added to OVI, first lifetime, seat belt, and reasonable control of a vehicle. A citation was filled out for Justice for wrongful entrustment as he was the car’s owner and allowed an intoxicated person to operate it. They were released on personal recognizance bond and given a court date of October 24 at Vermilion Municipal Court. Nagy’s license was suspended.


Sergeant Holmes stated in a news release, “This is yet another reminder of the immense dangers of drinking and driving. This accident could have easily been fatal. This is also another perfect example of the combined safety forces of Vermilion all working together as one unit to get the job done.”


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