Charges filed in crash that killed W. Roak Zeller on Interstate 76

By Dave O'Brien | staff writer Published:

A southwest Ohio truck driver has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of a Kent man in a traffic crash on Interstate 76 in Summit County on Sept. 6.

Daniel C. Ballard, 48, of Cleves in Hamilton County, is charged with one count each of vehicular manslaughter, a second-degree misdemeanor, and failure to maintain assured clear distance ahead -- or following too closely -- which is a minor misdemeanor, according to Stow Municipal Court records.

Ballard recently pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on bond pending a pretrial hearing in Judge Lisa Coates' courtroom on Nov. 5, according to court records.

Tallmadge police filed the charges after Ballard's semi-truck allegedly struck W. Roak Zeller's vehicle from behind in traffic while headed westbound on I-76 shortly before 8 a.m. Sept. 6. Zeller had slowed down in traffic caused by a different crash in the Akron area. Zeller's vehicle then struck a third vehicle.

Zeller, 42, of Kent, was ejected from his vehicle and died at the scene, according to Tallmadge police. Ballard was treated for minor injuries. The third driver was not injured.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1128 or

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  • An important question for the Tallmadge Express: what happened after the charges were filed against the driver who caused this death? This seems to be the same type of crash that almost killed comedian Tracy Morgan, and many others since (a semi truck driver, going too fast, not keeping a safe driving distance, and either not paying attention to the road or drowsy after having driven too long, plows into slowing traffic in front of them). If news outlets never follow up with what happens to the truck drivers who kill people in this way, it will continue to happen, with no changes made to eliminate this completely unnecessary and preventable type of accident that regularly takes the lives of drivers who are simply minding their own business and trusting that the drivers behind them (no matter what size vehicle they are driving) are not going to drive into them from behind and kill them.