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Dublin erects temporary barrier to ponds following second death

The city of Dublin today placed concrete barriers between the Avery Road/161 interchange and two retention ponds. The move comes just over a week after a second man drowned when his car veered off Avery Road into one of the ponds.

Cars shoot through a stop light at the top of the exit ramp connecting State Routes 161 and 33 to Avery-Muirfield Road.

The interchange is one of the most elaborate in central Ohio. In the 1990s the city spent nine million dollars to beautify what's considered the entrance to its Muirfield district. It boasts two expansive ponds surrounded by well-groomed lawns and pine trees.

But just a few feet away, a private construction firm is installing concrete barriers, much like the ones used to divert traffic on interstates during construction. Last Monday 69-year-old Samuel Pittro was driving down Avery-Muirfield Road when his car veered off the road into one of the ponds. Preliminary autopsy results indicate he drowned. His was the second such accident. In 2004 west-side resident Douglas Schaefer drove into one of the ponds after suffering a seizure behind the wheel. He too drowned.

WOSU News has obtained documents showing Dublin officials in 1999 reached an agreement with the state department of transportation to share the costs of putting underwater grates in the ponds. The grates would have, in theory, kept vehicles from sinking more than two feet into the 17-foot pond and would not have been visible.

But the grates were never installed.

The city instead built short stone walls to protect cars using the interchange, but did not build a barrier between the ponds and Avery Road.

Two cars going into the ponds are two too many, and something has to be done.

Mare Hull is a long-time resident of Dublin, and next-door neighbor to the Pittro family.

I'm extremely thankful they've done something temporary, but I'd like to see something permanent done," Mare says.

Plenty of Dublin residents seem to agree with Hull. Back near the intersection, Dublin resident Bob Bond is gassing up his car on his way to work. He says he uses the intersection every day, and while he doesn't think the ponds pose an immanent threat to most drivers, he thinks the concrete barriers are a good idea.

If it's another safety measure, it's positive. If that doesn't enhance the view, so be it," Bond says.

Dublin resident Joseph Johnson is a little more blunt.

If people are driving into them and dying, it is a risk.

It remain unclear why the grates were never installed. City engineer Paul Hamersmith says the city never considered cars on Avery Road to be in danger because of the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit, and a distance of 120 feet between the road and the ponds. A spokeswoman for the city of Dublin says O.D.O.T. approved the plan without the grates, but no documents dated past 1999 indicate that. Both the city and ODOT say, as of yet, they do not have a permanent plan for the intersection.