It was a deadly start to the day in Perry County Thursday morning.
The Lancaster Post of the Highway Patrol says two people were killed in a head-on collision on State Route 13 just north of Somerset at 8:15 am. Troopers identify the fatally injured victims as 24-year-old Franklin Merckle and 25-year-old Jeremy Penrod, both of New Lexington.
Lt. Gary Lewis says a black SUV driven by Merckle was traveling south on State Route 13 near Stone Quarry Road went left of center, in a no passing zone, striking a white mini van traveling north. The van was driven by 29-year-old Gary Coleman of Stockport.
"It's important to note that it is preliminary, but we do know that from a cause of the fact is that passing played a large factor in that," said Lt. Gary Lewis.
Both Merckle and Penrod were pronounced dead at the scene. Coleman and a passenger 42-year-old Jackie Genske of New Lexington were seriously injured and taken by Medflight to Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus. A third victim, 25-year-old Jeremy Coleman of Stockport, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to Licking Memorial Hospital in Newark.
"This is the first traffic fatality in Perry County this year. We are reminding motorists to drive the posted speed limit," said Lewis
The State Patrol continues to investigate the crash. State Route 13 was closed for over three hours during the investigation and clean up of the crash site. State Route 13 is now open to traffic.