Stow boy recovering after crushed between vehicles in OVI crash

Jeff Saunders
Kent Weeklies
Julie Pohl

STOW — Natascha VanPelt remembers seeing her 17-year-old son Aiden for the first time after his legs were crushed between two vehicles during an Oct. 8 crash on Stow Road.

“He had pulled himself to the grass between the street and the sidewalk and his leg was totally twisted,” she said. “I thought it was his knee because it was, what it looked like, was completely mangled and turned around. He had stopped screaming because, he said later, he decided that screaming was doing absolutely no good so he just stopped and he was pretty chill from that moment on. He’s still really chill. But I screamed when I saw that.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to benefit Aiden VanPelt with costs not covered by insurance. As of Wednesday afternoon, 49 individuals had donated $2,540 towards the $25,000 goal.

According to a police crash report, Aiden was loading a bicycle into the rear of his mother’s 2016 Chrysler Town & Country minivan in Stow Road’s 4200 block when he was struck from behind by a 2017 Toyota Corolla driven by Uniondale Drive resident Julie M. Pohl, 23, at about 1:23 a.m. Police estimated the Corolla was traveling at 35 mph, the posted speed limit, at the time of the crash.

According to Stow Municipal Court records, Pohl was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence and assured clear distance ahead. Police Capt. Bryan Snavely said Oct. 8 that the matter was still under investigation and the results of a blood alcohol test were pending, but Pohl performed poorly on field sobriety tests.

“The officers felt she was impaired and made the arrest,” he said.

Updated information regarding the investigation was not immediately available.

Aiden said Wednesday that he was riding his bike home to Ritchie Road from a friend’s house when he had a crash that gave him a scraped chin and hands. When he realized one of the bike’s wheel was bent, he called his mother and asked her to come get him. After she arrived, he was at the back of the van moving a couple of cases of water bottles when he was hit.

“I was reaching for the second [case] when everything kind of got really loud and bright and there was a huge crash and I fell to the ground,” he said. “All I remember was screaming and crawling over to the grass. And I remember my left leg, the bottom half was moving independently of the top half and then my mom called 911.”

Natascha said that while driving to pick Aiden up, he had called again and told her he thought he might have a concussion because while he did not black out, he had had “tunnel vision.” While Aiden was at the back of the van, she made a call to get medical advice as to whether she should take Aiden to a hospital and remembered seeing headlights coming up from the rear, but she had the hazard lights on. Then she felt the collision.

“I walked back to see if he was OK,” said Natascha. “He was screaming and then I saw what happened.”

She had already tried to call 911, but misdialed and had to try again. Both Natascha and Aiden said they remember Pohl getting out of her car and saying that she had only looked away for a moment. Natascha said he later heard Pohl tell police she had had a problem with the Corolla’s brakes.

“Then the cops showed up and started asking questions, making sure I stayed awake,” said Aiden. “You know, like what my name was, if I knew who was in the van and where it hurt, that kind of thing.”

Stow EMS took Aiden to Akron Children’s Hospital. The fibula and tibia bones in both of Aiden’s legs were broken, with the left tibia shattered, and there was a small crack in his left femur. Within 60 hours after the crash, he had two surgeries, during which rods were put into the bones. He also has a torn ligament in his left knee that may require surgery later. He needed blood transfusions during his surgeries due to elevated blood pressure, but Natascha said that by Wednesday, his blood pressure had stabilized.

“Hopefully, he’ll be released to rehab at the end of the week,” she said, adding that he might be rehabbing for as long as a year and that he may be facing a lifetime of issues, including periodic pain in his legs and weakness in his left foot due to muscle and nerve damage.

As for the injuries Aiden suffered in the bike crash, Natascha said Aiden needed stitches in his chin, but showed no signs of a concussion at the hospital.

“He was real good about answering questions and they were a lot more concerned about his legs,” she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Aiden said he had just returned to his hospital room from physical therapy.

“I’m actually feeling a lot better,” he said.

Pohl was taken to Stow Police Department and later released on a personal bond. According to court records, she pleaded not guilty to the charges at her arraignment Tuesday and has been ordered to wear equipment monitoring her blood alcohol level, as well as submit to daily drug testing.

Pohl is scheduled for a Nov. 3 pretrial hearing before Judge Kim R. Hoover at 12:30 p.m. An attorney for Pohl could not immediately be identified.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.