Vehicular manslaughter trial begins: 3 family members died in I-280 crash

The trial has started for a Michigan man accused of causing the car crash that killed three family
members.
Opening statements were heard Tuesday in the case against Lawrence Nastal, 31, Lincoln Park, who has been
charged with six counts vehicular manslaughter and four counts vehicular assault. The trial is being
held in Wood County Common Pleas Judge Joel Kuhlman’s courtroom.
He is accused of causing the Aug. 3, 2018 crash on Interstate 280, just south of the Walbridge Road
overpass near Millbury, that killed three people.
Lisa Balsizer, 54, and Callie Balsizer, 21, died at the scene. Carl Balsizer, 65, died 16 days later at a
hospital. All were of Gibsonburg.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that this case is going to show you three people lost their lives. That’s
also not to discount the other two individuals that suffered serious physical harm,” said Wood County
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Romaker.
Romaker said that Nastal was still traveling fast when he hit the Balsizers’ Jeep.
“What you’re going to hear from the truck black box was that a tenth of a second before that accident …
the cruise control was still set at over 60 mph,” Romaker said.
“The accident was caused by Larry, but make no mistake, it was an accident,” said defense attorney Scott
Coon.
There was no drugs or alcohol in Nastal’s system, he wasn’t on his cell phone, he was not drowsy, and he
was not driving an unsafe vehicle, Coon said.
“You will also hear he was not speeding. … The evidence will show that he was traveling lower than the
speed limit of 65 and he was actually going about 58. He wasn’t speeding,” he said. “You will not hear
any evidence he was driving recklessly.”
Four of the vehicles involved supplied data from their black boxes that showed each had stopped, Romaker
said.
Nastal was indicted on six counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts for each victim; and four
counts of aggravated vehicular assault for injuries suffered by two others, again two counts for each.

According to Ohio State Highway Patrol reports at the time, Nastal struck several vehicles that were
backed up in “stop-and-go” traffic.
Lisa Balsizer was driving a 2013 Jeep Wrangler at the time of the crash.
Nastal’s truck first struck a 2008 Buick Lucerne operated by Anthony Reino, Gibsonburg, before striking
the Balsizer Jeep as well as a 2017 Buick Enclave driven by Joseph DeMarco, Vermilion.
After striking the other vehicles, Nastal’s tractor-trailer ran off the side of the road and overturned.
The Balsizer Jeep also left the right side of the road and caught fire.
The homicide counts are all third-degree felonies. The assault charges are fourth-degree felonies.
Romaker called Reino and DeMarco to describe what happened to them that day.
Reino takes I-280 home every day from work. He said he was sitting in his stopped vehicle and saw a
truck, “the size of a postage stamp,” approaching from behind. After his vehicle was struck, he said he
woke up in the back seat of his car, which ended up in a field near the highway.
Photos of the vehicle showed the back half crumpled and ripped apart.
Reino said he had blood in his eyes and his ears from gashes on his head and part of the console was
around his neck, restricting his breathing.
He was in Mercy-St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo for two days, lived in his living room for a few
weeks, then was back in the hospital with a leg infection.
Reino said he moved over to allow a vehicle, which was Balsizer’s Jeep, to merge then fell behind that
vehicle in the right lane.
He recalled watching the semi approach via his rear-view mirror.
“When it came so fast and got big in my mirror, that’s when I yelled and turned because I didn’t think I
was going to make it,” Reino said.
DeMarco said he travels south on I-280 once a week on his way home to Vermilion.
He said he noted construction signs, was tapping his breaks before the overpass, and then both lanes of
traffic stopped. He got out his phone to make some calls.
He said doctors told him that is probably what saved his life: He wasn’t aware of what was going to
happen so he didn’t tense up.
DeMarco said he remembers hearing the crunch of metal. When he woke up, his vehicle was in the median and
OnStar was communicating with him.
He could hear people crying and yelling for help. Upon looking to his right, he saw a vehicle in flames
and heard people screaming.
“It’s difficult,” DeMarco said about remembering the crash. “I’m better today, but for a long time I
often woke up in the middle of the night remembering the scene. I’m trying hard not to remember.”
A photo of his Buick Enclave showed everything behind the right rear passenger door crumbled or missing.

DeMarco had three sheared vertebrae and was told if they had been a fraction to the side, he would be a
paraplegic.
Romaker also walked Matt Harvey, a transportation manager with the Ohio Department of Transportation,
through a video showing signage of the road leading up to the construction zone.
The roadway was closed to fix a dip caused by a failed culvert under the road.
Concrete barrier walls were constructed, road works ahead signs were in place a mile back on both sides
of the road, lane closed signs were in place, then the flashing arrow board telling motorists to move
over.
A sign mentioned by Coon was flipped after the accident, Harvey said.
The defense is expected to call witnesses today.
Coon said his study of the construction zone signage will show a rush job with only one sign on the left
side of the road indicated road work ahead. The sign on the right was turned around.
There were no signs indicating stopped traffic ahead, traffic slowing and road merger ahead.
Traffic was backed up at least a mile from the construction zone.
“Larry will testify for you and you will have the opportunity to gauge whether you think he is a reckless
individual,” Coon said.
A lapse of due care – which is what happened here – in a civil case, he said.
To become a criminal case called vehicular homicide, there has to be a substantial lapse of due care.
The jury will have to decide the difference.
“I am confident you will not find the factors here that Larry acted recklessly,” Coon said.