Man killed in crash with Sharon high schoolers was farmer, race car team member
John Zdelar Jr. was about to get a new tractor to work the farm he inherited when his father died.
“He saved up for the tractor so he could better take care of the farm. It was something he hoped to have for years and years. He was only 50, but I think he was thinking about retiring early. He and his wife talked about living an easier life, to enjoy their life more,” said his brother, Joe Zdelar, 57. “That was cut short by this tragedy.”
Zdelar, 50, of Brookfield, Ohio, died Friday in a two-vehicle collision along East Connelly Boulevard in Sharon.
Police said a Mazda containing several Sharon High School football players and driven by Corey Swartz, 17, of Sharon crossed the median and collided head-on with Zdelar's pickup truck. Swartz and passenger Evan Gill, 17, also died.
“I wonder to myself why this had to happen,” Zdelar said. “John had such a sense of humor. He could talk to young or old and be their best friend. He was such a great family man and these young kids had their entire lives to look forward to.”
Two other passengers in the Mazda, twin brothers Greg and Craig Osmon, 17, of Sharon were transported to Sharon Regional Health System and transferred to St. Elizabeth's hospital in Youngstown, where they underwent surgery. Their conditions were not available.
Zdelar's stepson, Evan Wallace, 10, of Brookfield was taken to UPMC Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville for treatment and released. Joe Zdelar said Wallace had severe bruising and will need hand surgery this week.
Wallace's friend, Blake Yenderak, 12, of Brookfield was treated at Sharon Regional Health System and released.
Sharon police Chief Micahel J. Menster said a preliminary investigation did not indicate that alcohol, drugs or texting were factors in the crash. Menster said the investigation is ongoing.
John Zdelar was a crew member for King Motor Sports at the Sharon Speedway and worked on his father's farm. His brother said he was “truly a father” to his wife Kim's three children.
“They just loved my brother. He was truly almost like a real father to them,” he said.
Zdelar's mother Mary Zdelar, 77, of Brookfield said her son was a wonderful man who tried to make everyone happy.
“There's nothing I can do,” she said. “I guess God wanted it that way.”
The two-vehicle crash is the latest in a string of tragedies for Sharon City School District this year. Students and staff have struggled to deal with the shooting death of one student, the beating of the high school football coach and the sudden loss of a beloved elementary school teacher, Superintendent Mike Calla said.
“These students have had to grow up very quickly this year,” Calla said.
The district made grief counselors available for students.
In January, sophomore and basketball player Leangelo Ford, 17, was shot to death. Jontae M. Barnes, 20, of Sharon, was sentenced in September to between one and two years in jail on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, court records show.
On Aug. 11, just as football practice was about to start, police said a former player attacked coach Jim Wildman in his home, severely injuring him. Joseph Koscinski, 39, is awaiting trial on charges including aggravated assault.
Less than three weeks later, Calla said, sixth-grade teacher Linda Haines, 56, who taught at Case Elementary, died unexpectedly, just before classes began.
“It's been a tough go already for the district,” Calla said.
Zdelar said he hopes Sharon officials will think about installing some kind of barrier along the road where his brother died.
“I love my brother and I want to bring something positive out of this. I don't want my brother to have died for no reason,” he said.
Visitation for Zdelar will be held at Lane Madasz Chapel, 6923 Warren-Sharon Road, in Brookfield, from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday.