Traffic Death Trap in Avon, Ohio

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Four-vehicle pileup closes I-90 in Avon

10-28-05: Avon woman dies in car/bus crash

5-30-07: Roads closed on 5-31-07

Friday, 12-4-98, from a MORNING JOURNAL EDITORIAL:

At 60 miles an hour, a motor vehicle can cover 88 feet in one second. ... there would be just a second or two for drivers in its path ... to see it and react. ... An unexpected lane change by another vehicle, an animal darting across the road, or a moment's inattention can spell disaster. ...

Avon's I-90 a 'death trap'

Thurs., Sept. 17, 1998

By SHARON TURCO and COLLEEN MYTNICK,
Morning Journal Writers

AVON -- Accidents in which a car crosses the median of I-90 into oncoming traffic, have increased by 3,000 percent in recent months and will continue to rise unless concrete barriers are put up to separate the eastbound and westbound lanes, police said.

''I would rather face a man with a gun than a 4,000-pound automobile coming at me from across the median at 65 mph,'' said Avon Police Sgt. Tom Dunegan. ''At least you can talk to a man with a gun.''

While police and city officials have been screaming for increased safety measures on Avon's stretch of I-90 since third-lane construction started, they say the Ohio Department of Transportation is not listening.

The problem, said Dunegan, is that the opposing lanes of traffic are now precariously close together and will remain so as the result of the addition of a third lane in each direction from the Westlake border to just east of SR 611.

Since April, one person has died and several have been injured on what police now call ''a death trap.''

A total of seven vehicles have crossed the median of I-90 in the construction zone and ended up in the path of oncoming traffic, according to police records.

''It's a staggering statistic,'' Dunegan said. ''As an officer, it's my job to make the road as safe as possible. Something has to be done.''

In a crossover crash on Tuesday, 32-year-old Elyria resident Dagmar Temple escaped with only minor injuries, but Dunegan said he's not willing to play the odds game that Avon's I-90 construction zone has become.

''Unless I'm working, I don't drive in the construction zone. And neither does my family,'' he said. ''I won't give up until something is done.''

ODOT officials, however, said the distance between the lanes meets state and federal safety requirements, meaning that no barriers are needed.

The opposing lanes are currently 32 feet apart, but will be 60 feet apart once construction is finished.

As an extra safety precaution, ODOT installed rumble strips to prevent vehicles from crossing the median, but Dunegan said, ''All that does is make a noise -- it's not going to slow you down.''

ODOT spokeswoman Sally Giovinazzo said even though ODOT thinks the road is safe, they are taking Avon's pleas for help seriously.

''We are always willing to talk with people and meet with them,'' she said.

When asked if that meant ODOT would consider separating the lanes with barriers, she responded: ''I only said we're willing to meet with them and talk with them.''

But Avon officials may be weary of talking with ODOT. When construction began in June of 1997, crashes skyrocketed by 200 percent because the lanes were narrower and left a smaller margin for error, police said.

After months of haggling with ODOT for safer road conditions, Avon city officials called on the governor and state representatives to help them in their quest to prevent fatalities on I-90.

In January 1998, ODOT officials finally consented to add several new safety measures, including flashing signs warning drivers to slow down, better lighting and reflectors to mark lane edges.

Now with construction almost completed, the battle has begun again and Avon officials are eager to win before winter sets in.

''It's only going to get worse,'' Dunegan said. ''Typically, on a bad weather day, we see 20 to 30 cars slide off of I-90. Without barriers this year, they're going to cross right over the median.

Icy I-90 tragedy feared

Thurs., Dec. 3, 1998

By COLLEEN MYTNICK, Morning Journal Writer

AVON -- Betty Dominick's son died on a stretch of highway that reminds Avon police too much of the portion of I-90 they are battling to make safe.

Like in Avon, the highway in Mentor had no barrier separating east and westbound lanes. On July 16, 1989, a car traveling 100 mph crossed the median and killed Ms. Dominick's 20-year-old son.

Ms. Dominick began a campaign of letter writing and petition gathering.

''It took her two trips to Columbus before they finally agreed to put in a guard rail system.'' said Avon Police Sgt. Tom Dunegan.

Avon officials are in the middle of a similar fight. Since a project to add a third lane on I-90 was completed, the inside lanes are only 32 feet apart.

A total of seven vehicles have crossed that narrow median and ended up in the path of oncoming traffic, according to police records.

Avon officials have pleaded with the Ohio Department of Transportation to erect a barrier, but the department insists one is not needed because the current highway meets state and federal standards.

''Betty Dominick told me not to give up,'' Dunegan said. '' I've been told that I'm crazy by a certain number of people. They said it's not going to do any good, but I can't give up yet.''

While the stretch of highway has been relatively peaceful in recent months, Dunegan said when the first snowfall hits it will be like ''the opening of the Winter Olympics.''

''The cars will be slipping and sliding all over the place,'' Dunegan said. ''We've got to have something to protect the people.''

In Mentor, police said the guard rail fought for by Ms. Dominick has made a huge difference on their eight miles of highway.

''We've had no head-on collisions since we've put the (barrier) in the center,'' said Mentor Police Lt. Dan Llewellyn. ''It was a state project that cost $11 million. But if it saves one person's life, it's worth it.''

Dunegan said he hopes it won't take a fatality to get ODOT's attention.

''Do we have to wait for a similar tragedy to take place before ODOT officials pay attention to the people whose tax dollars pay for the roads and ODOT salaries?'' he asked.''

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EDITORIAL from The Morning Journmal, 12-6-04

``Cross-over crash on SR 2 [I 90] shows need for good median barrier

A nightmarish four-vehicle crash on Interstate-90/SR2 in Avon just over a week ago [11-26-04] sent eight people to area hospitals and shut down that part of the freeway for about five hours.

The sad thing is, this accident didn't have to be so severe, if highway officials had heeded calls for a good barrier along the narrow median strip between the eastbound and westbound lanes. It only takes a second for a car to streak across that slim strip of grass.

The Nov. 26 smash-up started when a westbound car went off the pavement, shot across the median and into the eastbound lanes where it was hit by two vehicles, one of which then hit a truck.

Avon Police Chief John Vilagi urged the Ohio Department of Transportation to include concrete barriers or metal guardrails several years ago when the third lane was added between the Cuyahoga County line and SR 611. The added lanes greatly narrowed the median strip. This newspaper also voiced similar concerns at the time.

But transportation officials said then, and now, that the highway meets federal safety standards as it is. If that's the case, then the standards aren't high enough.

It's ridiculous to express satisfaction with a highway that has witnessed approximately 15 crashes with vehicles slicing across the median into oncoming traffic during the past five years.

Only within recent weeks has a cable and post style median barrier been put along the freeway's eastbound lanes, roughly between SR 83 and SR 611. A state highway department spokesman said more could be installed all the way to the Cuyahoga County border, if this first cable barrier section proves effective.

If it proves effective? Don't they test these things with crash dummies someplace before real people start slamming into them on real freeways?

Let's hope we can find out how well it works without anyone losing life or limb. Frankly, the new cable barrier doesn't look like it could stop a kindergarten class, much less a car roaring along at 70 mph.

We've already seen enough carnage to make it clear that this busy stretch of freeway in Avon urgently requires a good, solid median barrier to prevent cross-over collisions and keep motorists safe.''

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NEWS ARTICLE from the Chronicle Telegram, 11-27-04, By Jeff Mohrman

``Four-vehicle pileup closes I-90 in Avon

AVON -- Nine people were injured and the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 were closed for at least 3 hours late Friday [11-26-04] after a four-vehicle collision about a mile west of the Cuyahoga County line, Avon police Sgt. Larry Fischbach said.

The accident happened about 7:30 p.m. when a westbound Ford Mustang crossed the median and hit one of the other three vehicles involved in the accident, Fischbach said. Identifications of the crash victims were not available. The driver of the Mustang was flown by helicopter to the MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Fischbach said.

Firefighters from Avon, Avon Lake and Westlake responded to the scene. Avon firefighter John Gansor said a passenger in the Mustang was ejected through the back of the vehicle. "When we got on scene, he was sitting in the middle of the freeway. He was a little disoriented," said Gansor, who added that the man was taken to Fairview Hospital in Cleveland. Gansor described the accident scene as being "like a bomb went off."

Avon Lake firefighters took four people to St. John West Shore Hospital in Westlake, including two children who appeared to be between 8 and 10 years old, a fire department spokesman said ... Westlake firefighters took a woman and a 7-year-old girl to Lakewood Hospital ..

Police closed I-90 eastbound lanes at the state Route 83 exit, forcing eastbound traffic to use Detroit Road.

Fischbach said there were indications that alcohol may have been a factor in causing the Mustang to cross the median ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 12-6-01, By PHILIP VAN TREUREN, Morning Journal Writer

``Crash on I-90 kills One

AVON -- A Vermilion man was killed early yesterday morning when his pickup truck crossed the median on Interstate 90 and collided with a tractor-trailer rig.

Nicholas George Brubaker, 22, of Frailey Road, was headed west about 5:55 a.m. and had passed the SR 611 interchange when his pickup truck drifted across the lanes and over the median strip, according to Lorain County Coroner Dr. Paul M. Matus.

Brubaker's truck drifted into the path of an eastbound semitrailer driven by a 57-year-old North Canton man, Matus said, and Brubaker died on impact ...

''This is just preliminary, but he may have fallen asleep,'' Matus said ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 2-10-02, By Brad Dicken

``AVON -- ... Avon police Chief John Vilagi is concerned that widening I-90 into three lines will worsen the potential safety problems.

"The problem," Vilagi said, "is that with the widening of I-90 into three lanes in the city, there won't be enough space between the east and westbound lanes to prevent crossover accidents."

Vilagi measured the distance and found that once the third lane opens, there will about 12 1/2 feet of paved berm on each side and 32 feet of a shallow grassy ditch between those berms. Each lane is 12 feet wide.

"Once that gets opened, you've brought traffic 25 feet closer (together), he said. "The further left you are, the less time you have for a crossover and there's absolutely nothing to stop you."

"A car moving at 70 mph travels 103 feet a second," Vilagi said. "The average driver takes 1.5 seconds to discern and begin to react to a hazard. In those 1.5 seconds, the vehicle would travel 154 1/2 feet."

Officials at ODOT's District 3 office, which is expanding the lanes, say the median strip will meet federal standards ...''

Despite ODOT's insistence the highway will remain safe once the third lanes open this fall, Vilagi remains unconvinced.

"You can tell me what the standards are all you want, but I know this roadway. I've worked on it for 22 years, and I know the type of accidents there are," he said. "And when that third lane opens, you're going to have serious accidents."''

Contact Brad Dicken at bdicken@chronicletelegram.com

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-28-04,

``AVON -- Seven of the nine people injured in a four-vehicle accident that closed the eastbound lanes on Interstate 90 for about three and a half hours Friday [11-26-04] have been released from local hospitals, Avon police Patrolman Robert Olds said.

The accident happened about 7:30 p.m. about a mile west of the Cuyahoga County line, according to authorities.

One of the two people who remained in hospitals was Bonnie M. Simmerly, 37, of Cleveland, who was in good condition at St. John West Shore Hospital in Westlake, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The other, Paul T. Murton, 38, of Windsor Drive in Elyria, was in Fairview Hospital in Cleveland ...

Murton was a passenger in a 2003 Ford Mustang driven westbound by Timothy E. Jones, 38, of Hinckley, that went across the median into the eastbound lanes and collided with Simmerly's 2000 Suzuki Grand Vitara SUV, Olds said.

The Mustang then spun and collided with a 1990 Toyota Prieba pickup driven by James T. Horvatich, 40, of East 35th Street, Lorain, Olds said. The Mustang then collided with a 2000 Chevrolet 1500 pickup driven by Marc Bottone, 32, of Bell Avenue, Sheffield Lake, as Bottone was trying to avoid the accident, Olds said ...

Horvatich and his passengers, Laurie J. Weeden, 41, of Erieview, Sheffield Lake, Veronica Vance, 6, of Avon, and Horvatich's son, Kyle, 5, of Amherst were all taken to St. John West Shore Hospital, Olds said.

Simmerly's daughter, Anna Simmerly, 7, of Avon was taken to Lakewood Hospital, Olds said ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 11-29-04,

``AVON -- Police continue to investigate a four-vehicle crash that shut down Interstate 90 for about five hours Friday [11-26-04] night.

Although no one was killed, the accidents sent eight people, including three small children, to hospitals, some with serious injuries.

Avon Patrolman Bob Olds said that about 7:30 p.m., a westbound car driven by Timothy E. Jones, 38, of Hinckley, crossed the median at the 155 milepost near [east of] Ohio 83 and entered the eastbound lanes.

Jones' car was struck by a car driven by Bonnie Simmerly, 37, of Cleveland. Simmerly's car was hit by a vehicle driven by James Horvatich, 40, of Lorain, and Horvatich's car was hit by a vehicle driven by Marc Bottone, 32, of Sheffield Lake, Olds said.

Paul Murton, 38, of Elyria, a passenger in Jones' car, was thrown through the rear window. Jones was trapped in the car and had to be cut out by Avon firefighters ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 11-28-04, By MICHAEL C. FITZPATRICK, Morning Journal Writer

``AVON -- Police continue to investigate Friday [11-26-04] night's four-vehicle accident, which sent eight people to area hospitals and shut down a portion of I-90 for five and a half hours, Avon police said yesterday.

The accident occurred around 7:30 pm in the eastbound lanes of I-90 near the Lorain-Cuyahoga county line, said Officer Robert Olds of the Avon Police Department. It started when a black Ford Mustang traveling west on I-90 drove off the road, across the grass median and into oncoming eastbound traffic, Olds said.

A 2000 Suzuki Vitara driven by Bonnie Simmerly slammed into the Mustang, sending it spinning and ejecting passenger Paul T. Murton, 38, Elyria, said Olds. The Mustang was then struck a second time by a 1990 Toyota Previa driven by James T. Horvatich, 40, of Lorain. Horvatich's Previa ended up striking the back of a Chevrolet 1500 truck driven by Marc Botton, 32, of Sheffield Lake, Olds said ...

Jones was taken by helicopter to Metro Health Medical Center for treatment ... Murton was taken by ambulance to Fairview General Hospital ...

Simmerly, the driver of the Suzuki, and her 7-year-old daughter Hannah, were both taken to Lakewood Hospital, said Olds ...''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-29-05, by JENNIFER BRACKEN, Morning Journal Writer

``Avon woman killed in car-bus accident

AVON -- One of four car accidents that occurred yesterday morning [10-28-05] resulted in the death of an 70-year-old Avon woman, according to the Avon Police Department.

Three car accidents happened within an hour and another occurred four hours later, according to Sgt. Richard Bosley of the Avon Police Department. Although heavy rain hit most of Avon, Bosley doesn't believe it was a major factor in the accidents.

Ofelia Leal, Mills Road, Avon, died after the car in which she was riding was hit by an SBS Transit school bus at 7:08 a.m. yesterday, Bosley said.

According to Lorain County Coroner Dr. Paul Matus, she died from severe head and internal chest injuries.

The accident occurred at SR 83 and SR 254. The bus, driven by Merri Six, 47, Lake Breeze Road, Sheffield Lake, was traveling south on SR 83, according to Avon police.

It collided with the couple's 2003 Lincoln Town Car, driven by Ofelia's husband, Jose Leal, according to the Avon Fire Department. Jose Leal was driving north on SR 83 and attempting a left turn on to SR 254 when the accident happened, Avon police said. The accident is under investigation ...

Neither Jose Leal nor Six reported any injuries, the report said. The Leals' vehicle was struck on the passenger side of the car ...

A second accident occurred at 7:22 a.m. at SR 254 and SR 611, a third at 7:32 a.m. at SR 83 and SR 254 and a fourth on SR 254 west of Moon Road, Bosley said. The three other accidents were minor with no injuries, according to Bosley.

A light rain fell much of the morning yesterday, but Bosley said he didn't believe the accidents were caused by slick or wet roads ...

Funeral arrangements for Ofelia Leal are pending with Liston Funeral Home, 36403 Center Ridge Road, North Ridgeville.''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle Telegram, 10-29-05, by Chris Powell

``Avon woman dies in car/bus crash

AVON -- An Avon woman who was traveling to the gym to work out with her husband died Friday after an SBS Transit bus struck their Lincoln Town Car. Ofelia Leal, 70, of the 35700 block of Mills Road, died around 7:15 a.m. Friday at the Avon Emergency Care Center from internal chest and head injuries, Coroner Paul Matus said. "She basically died at the scene," Matus said ...''

Police said the accident occurred around 7 a.m. at the intersection of Detroit and Avon Belden roads when Jose Leal, 71, turned into the path of the oncoming bus.

The only people on the bus were driver Merri Six, 47, of Sheffield Lake and her assistant.

Avon police Detective Robert Olds said the crash is still under investigation and that neither driver has been charged. No other injuries were reported. "We haven't been able to determine who is at fault yet, but apparently the Town Car turned in front of the bus and was struck," he said ...

Police said the couple was en route to the Avon EMH Healthcare Center on Detroit Road for their planned morning workout. Family members could not be reached for comment on Friday.

An accident report was unavailable on Friday, but police said the accident tied up the intersection until 10 a.m. "We got down there in a hurry, set up cones and directed traffic," Olds said. "But traffic was still delayed."''

Contact Chris Powell at 329-7119 or cpowell@chroniclet.com.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 10-29-05

``Avon woman killed in bus-car collision

Avon -- An Avon woman died after a school bus and a car collided Friday at Ohio 83 and Ohio 254, one of the city's busiest intersections.

Ofelia Leal, 70, was a passenger in a car driven by her husband, Jose Leal Sr., 71. They were on their way to a fitness center for their daily workout, their son, Jose Jr., said.

The SBS Transit bus, driven by Merri Six of Sheffield Lake, was heading to pick up passengers for a morning run.

Leal was taken to Avon Emergency Care Center and pronounced dead. Her husband was not seriously hurt.

Her son said she was active in Cross Community Church in Elyria and liked to spend time helping her son at his dental laboratory ...''

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MESSAGE to www.loraincounty.com , 10-30-05, By Oldtimer

``Locating the proposed school bus garage at Heritage North will force more busses through the SR83 - Detroit intersection, increasing the risk for Avon children. This alone is reason enough to eliminate Heritage North school as as site for the proposed bus garage. The school board should contract with SBS Transit for bus service, and store the busses in Sheffield.

If the school board is able to blunder forward with its wasteful trashing of Detroit Rd., with no consideration for the health of our children or the ability to expand the bus parking area, then the voters should be reminded of this next year [2006] at election time with letters to the editor, etc., when the citizens are asked to approve another school tax levy.

Storing 42 busses along the west side of Heritage North is a menace to the health of Avon children. The wind is usually from a westerly direction, blowing deadly diesel pollution into the school. The problem, other than the zoning disaster, is not the garage. THE PROBLEM IS THE BUSSES: Show THEIR location on the school's web site. Drive north on Colorado to SBS Transit to see an example. (See photo.)

School busses should not be stored at Heritage North. When these busses warm up in the morning, clouds of tiny particles from the diesel engines will fill the air. These tiny particles have been shown to be the cause of the asthma epidemic which is sweeping the country. These particles also cause lung cancer. The life of just one Avon student is worth more than any financial saving from storing the busses at Heritage North. And we can save more money by contracting with SBS Transit for school bus service -- the busses will be stored in Sheffield.

The deadly tiny particles of diesel pollution will blow into the school through even the smallest crevice. These particles will accumulate in Heritage North. The kids will breathe them in when they get there. After they get off the busses at Heritage North, they will breathe in these deadly particles all day long, day after day, inside the school.

The only way these particles will leave the school is on the clothes and in the lungs of students and staff. The concentration of these particles will rise until as many are being added to the air in the school each day as are leaving in or on people. Little brothers and sisters at home will be contaminated.

From www.harvard-magazine.com/on-line/050543.html:

Joseph Brain is the Director of the Harvard School of Public Health's Center for Environmental Health: "Lung diseases like cancer, emphysema, fibrosis, and asthma are almost all initiated or aggravated by the inhalation of particles and gases, says Center director Joseph Brain ..."

Ultra-fine or nanosized particles can be the same size as molecules in the body. These may actually enter the bloodstream by crossing the alveolar membrane or by passing between cells that make up the alveolar wall ...

As we have become more sophisticated in our epidemiologic studies, it has become clear that the concept 'that there is a safe level at which you can protect everybody in the public against health effects' is not holding up. There are detectable health effects at even the lowest levels ..."

Fair warning has been given in the local newspapers. If the school board succeeds in building a bus garage at Heritage North and storing busses along the west side of the school, in a few years -- after the tiny particles of diesel pollution have built up in the school -- some citizen will pay to have the school inspected by experts and then SHUT IT DOWN!''

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 5-30-07, by JENNIFER BRACKEN, Morning Journal Writer

``Avon plans massive closures for funeral

AVON -- The city of Avon will come to a stand still on Thursday [5-31-07] as area residents and law enforcement agencies honor fallen Cleveland Heights Police Officer Jason West.

As people pour in to pay their respects, the Avon Police Department has announced several road closures and Avon City Schools has canceled classes for the day.

Visitation hours for West, an Avon native, will be held today at the Misencik Funeral Home from 2 to 9 p.m. During this time police are encouraging motorists to avoid Detroit Road near the funeral home, as it is expected to be extremely congested.

Private funeral services and interment are schedule for 11 a.m. Thursday ...

The funeral procession will begin at the Misencik Funeral Home, 36363 Detroit Road, [at about 10 am] and continue to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 2640 Stoney Ridge Road [for a private fundral service at 11 am].

[The procession] will then follow ... Stoney Ridge Road ... [to] Kinzel [and then] Kinzel Road between Stoney Ridge and SR 83 [then south on SR 83 to RestHaven Memory Gardens, 3700 Center Road (SR 83) for the cemetary service.]

West, who was an officer with the Cleveland Heights Police Department for seven years, was killed in the line of duty Friday. He was shot at about 10 p.m. after police responded to a large fight at 3411 Altamont Ave., according to the Cleveland Heights Police Department. West tried to block a sport utility vehicle from leaving the driveway when the driver, Timothy U. Halton Jr., of South Euclid, fired at West and two other officers ...

Avon High School seniors are scheduled for the second day of final exams on Thursday and will need to report to school by 8:30 a.m., according to school officials. The school is working with the police department in providing an alternative route for students to get to and from school.

Avon police Lt. Rick Haag said the department is expecting more than 1,000 police vehicles to participate in the funeral and thousands more to pay their respects.

''A couple of our officers will be in attendance, but most of our effort will be put into making sure everything runs smoothly,'' Haag said.

The only street that will be closed from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. will be Stoney Ridge [from Detroit to Kinzel].''

[The following streets will be closed at 9 am on Thursday, 5-31-07:

  • Detroit between SR 611 and SR 83

  • Riegelsberger

  • SR 83 between Kinzel and Mills

  • Lakeland

  • Garden Drive

  • Wisteria

  • Lilac

  • Violet Court

  • Hanamar Drive

  • Healthway

  • Clifton Way

  • Lake Point]

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