Fiery crash

Foam covers the area after a fiery two-vehicle crash on Interstate 71 in the early morning hours of June 27 near the Richland/Morrow county line.

An Ohio Highway State Patrol trooper was in critical condition in a Columbus hospital after an alleged drunk driver from Mansfield ran head-on into his cruiser early Thursday morning.

The fiery accident on Interstate 71 in Morrow County, near the Richland County line, closed both sides of the highway while it was cleaned up and investigated.

At approximately 2:40 a.m., trooper Jason Phillips was dispatched to look for a potentially impaired-driver near mile post 155. Phillips was then struck head on by a driver heading south in the northbound lanes.

Both vehicles caught fire, according to Rob Sellars, spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol in Columbus.

Sellars said further investigation proved the car was the vehicle Phillips was sent to investigate.

UPDATED: I-71 re-opened after crash at Richland/Morrow county line

"A Good Samaritan stopped to provide help after the crash and was also injured," Sellars said.

The Good Samaritan, Koso Tsiboe, 27, of Galloway, was treated for a minor leg injury and released from the OSU Medical Center, the patrol said.

As of 8 a.m., both drivers were in the hospital. Phillips was taken to The Ohio State University Medical Center and the driver of the wrong-way vehicle, Michael Marchak Jr., 36, of Mansfield, was taken to OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital. The patrol said Marchak was also in critical condition.

Phillips, 23, of Ashville, Ohio, native graduated from the State Patrol Academy in November 2018 and was assigned to the Mount Gilead Post.

Jason Phillips

Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Phillips

The interstate was closed around 4 a.m., but is now open, according to Matt Bruing, press secretary of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

"We will be interested in understanding how this driver entered the highway and got on the wrong side of the highway," Bruing said. "We have worked hard to try and alert drivers they are going the wrong way."

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Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.