Juvenile struck by 18-wheeler on I-71 near Grove City

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A teenage boy is recovering at Grant Medical Center after he was hit by a semi truck on I-71 Tuesday morning.

Grove City police said the call came in about 9:20 a.m., notifying them that a pedestrian had been hit in the northbound lanes of I-71 near State Route 665. Sergeant Chris Emmelhainz told NBC4 the person hit was a juvenile who was taken to Grant Medical Center.

Nick Rees, president and CEO of nearby Buckeye Ranch, said the teenager is a client at Buckeye Ranch’s Grove City campus who ran away Tuesday morning. He said staff members tried to stop the boy but were unsuccessful.

“He decided to leave today, and rather than checking out, he ran,” Rees said. “Our staff followed him as closely as they could, tried to talk him into coming back in, but he got to the freeway and jumped in front of a truck before we could get to him.”

The boy was hit by a semi. Police said the driver did not appear to be at fault and that he likely wouldn’t face charges.

“[The driver] was definitely shook up and everything, but he definitely kept his composure, saw when the person got on the freeway and was able to slow down when he saw him, so it wasn’t a full impact at highway speed,” Sgt. Emmelhainz said.

The teenager was initially taken to the intensive care unit at Grant Medical Center, but Rees said staff members were with the boy at the hospital and they learned Tuesday afternoon he had been taken out of ICU.

While a fence surrounds part of Buckeye Ranch’s campus, Rees said it was primarily intended to keep outsiders from entering, not to keep clients inside.

“In the State of Ohio, children with us are not sentenced to the Buckeye Ranch,” Rees said. “They’re here for treatment. They have a mental health condition that has brought them to us for care.”

Rees said the facility currently houses about 85 children, ages 10 to 17.

“These are the kinds of kids that it makes them very difficult for them to go to traditional school,” Rees said. “They’re not the kind of kids that can be served in the community at a group home or something like that.”

Rees said there’s no reason to believe this happened because someone wasn’t paying attention. However, he said there would be an internal investigation, detailed in a “critical incident report,” looking at how this happened, what they learned and how to prevent it from happening again.

Rees also said Buckeye Ranch is providing counseling for staff members and made sure the driver’s company could also provide that service for him.

“I checked with them. They do have counseling services through their insurance program they can get for that driver,” Rees said. “Same way with us. We immediately had the folks from Matrix on campus to work with our staff. And think about it, we’re in this business and we reached out for some help, because this is a traumatic thing to deal with. Most people in their job don’t have something like this to deal with.”

Rees said it’s likely the boy will come back to Buckeye Ranch once he’s healthy,

“I’m always asked if the Buckeye Ranch wasn’t around, what would happen with these kids and to be honest with you, I don’t know,” Rees said. “It’s probably jail, homelessness, sitting in the emergency room at a hospital that is not prepared to work with that child.”

The good news, Rees said, is that the boy is still alive.

“He’s banged up and bruised up pretty bad, obviously,” Rees said. “But somehow he miraculously survived this thing.”

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