As hours turn into days for investigators looking for answers in the explosive accident at West 12th and Cherry Street, Erie Police Chief Don Dacus says investigators have not reached any conclusions yet on whether medical or mechanical factors may have caused the high speed accident. "We don't want the general conception to be that we've arrived at an answer, we have not and we are very far from a conclusion and it's mainly due to the catastrophic nature of the damage both to the vehicle and all of its occupants," Dacus said.  "It's going to take some time and several experts to be able to arrive at a conclusion," he added.

All Chief Dacus says they know for sure is that the tremendous accident claimed the lives of three men of our community,  65-year-old Oscar "Buchie" Johnson, 72-year old Willie Byrd and 65-year-old Charles "Scooter" Barnes. Police hope security cameras at Methodist Towers where the men lived may show who was sitting in which seat in the car.

From his examination of the remains, Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook was unable to reach a conclusion on who was driving. "We naturally believe the owner of the car was the probable driver (Oscar Johnson) but there's really no way from our standpoint to determine that," Cook said.

The coroner was also unable to tell if the driver had a medical problem.  He said seizures, and electrical issue in a living person, leave no trace, and there was not enough blood evidence to work with to determine if the likely driver had a heart attack or stroke. "A cardiac event or stroke is something normally we would be able to tell," Cook said, "but the conditions precluded us being able to determine that."

 Chief Dacus wants multiple mechanics to examine what is left of the vehicle, as investigators puzzle over why Mr. Johnson's 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe was traveling west at stunning speeds, when it hit a northbound tractor trailer crossing the intersection at Cherry Street. The police chief says the insurer of the vehicle, and other industry experts may lend their mechanical expertise. "We've been in conversation with the insurance company in this case...they have made us aware that they have a lab that has the ability to forensically look at a vehicle in a much deeper detail than what we possess the ability to do here," Dacus said.

Security camera video from two industries on the northside of  West 12th Street is helping investigators. The camera at American Tinning and Galvanizing caught the blur of the speeding car just before impact.  Modern Industries' camera picked up the story on the other side of the intersection.

With the video, traffic investigators have calculated the speed of the SUV in the range of 96 to 117 miles-per-hour. Chief Dacus says that estimate will needs to line up with data in the car's black box, when it is examined.

As for on-line car complaint websites, including or, some Hyundai owners claim they have have had trouble with sticking accelerators.  Erie News Now checked and the only current recalls for Hyundais don't involve those issues.  You can learn more at

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