June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Local couple killed in motorcycle crash

A Columbia Station couple died about 5:45 p.m. Sunday when the motorcycle they were riding struck a vehicle on Grafton Road in Grafton Township.

The crash occurred at a sharp curve in front of 36781 Grafton Road about a half-mile east of Mennell Road. The motorcyclist, Robert Willis, rode left of center and collided with the front driver’s side of a Chevrolet Equinox with three people inside, said Sgt. Christopher Brock of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Elyria post.

Brock said what caused Willis to collide with the Equinox remains under investigation, but accidents frequently occur in the area.

Willis was thrown about 20 yards from where the Harley-Davidson motorcycle he was riding landed. Also killed in the accident was Willis’ wife, Jolene, a passenger on the motorcycle.

The couple, both 37, were wearing helmets when the crash occurred, police said. Ohio law does not require adult motorcyclists to wear helmets.

The Equinox was driven by Debbie Harris, according to her daughter-in-law, Maggie Boley, who stopped at the crash scene. Boley said the passengers were Boley’s 9-year-old and 6-year-old sons. Boley said neither Harris nor the boys were seriously injured and all were wearing seat belts.

She said Harris was returning from a trip to the store with the boys when the crash occurred. Boley said Harris lives on Grafton Road about a quarter-mile from where the crash occurred.

“It’s terrible,” Boley said as she looked at the bodies of Willis and his wife.

A man who visited the crash scene but wouldn’t identify himself said the Willises, of the 25000 block of Sprague Road, are the parents of five children. “They were great people,” he said.

The man said Robert Willis was a Marine who was planning to retire soon. Robert Willis’ Facebook page said he is from El Cajon, Calif., a city about 11 miles outside of San Diego. It said he joined the Marines in 1994.

Jolene Willis’ Facebook page said she was from Riverside, a southern California city. Friends posted condolences on her page. “Thank you for your love of my sister and Robert,” wrote Lori Busch, who said she was Jolene Willis’ sister.

Contact reporter Evan Goodenow at (440) 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.