Matt Cooper
Matt Cooper
A young Wellston man faces three charges after he fled from the scene of a fiery crash near Wellston last Monday night, Feb. 20, where he was allegedly the at-fault driver.

The Jackson Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which investigated the crash, has identified the suspect as Matthew Cooper, 26, of 552 W. "B" St., Wellston. He has been charged with Operating A Vehicle While Impaired (OVI), Hit-Skip, and Failure To Provide Assured Clear Distance Ahead.

According to the Patrol, the crash occurred at 8:23 p.m. on State Route 788 in Coal Township, south of the State Route 93 intersection. A southbound sports utility vehicle driven by Breahanna Dempsey, 18, of Hamden, was struck in the rear by a southbound car driven by Cooper.

Dempsey's vehicle went off the left side of the roadway and struck a tree while Cooper's car went off the left side and caught fire. Cooper immediately fled the scene on foot.
Dempsey sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken by Jackson County EMS to Holzer Medical Center-Jackson where she was treated and released.

Two passengers, one in each vehicle, whose names were not available, also sustained minor injuries. The Coalton Fire Department was called to the scene to extinguish the car fire and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office was also at the scene.

Cooper was identified as the fleeing driver and sheriff's office deputies attempted to locate him. Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier said his office, with the help of citizens, was able to track down Cooper at a Wellston residence and make the arrest. He was then incarcerated in the Jackson County Correctional Facility.

Cooper made an initial appearance Tuesday, Feb. 21, in Jackson County Municipal Court. He pled not guilty and Mona Sprague was appointed to serve as his attorney. Judge Mark Musick set a bond of $30,000, of which 10 percent can be paid in cash or full surety. A hearing has been set in Cooper's case for Tuesday, March 14.