Food pantry founder injured in crash

Times file photo Candy Waite sits among other food pantry directors during a meeting at Ohio Job and Family Services in January. Waite was injured in a crash near Marietta Tuesday morning and is undergoing treatment at Grant Medical Center in Columbus.

One of Marietta’s best known humanitarians is recovering in a Columbus hospital after being severely injured in a crash.

Candy Waite, founder of the Gospel Mission Food Pantry on Marietta’s west side, was driving west on Ohio 550 Tuesday morning near the intersection of Cole Coffman Road when an eastbound vehicle crossed the center line and struck her Kia Sportage SUV head-on.

Waite’s husband, Jeff Waite, was in the passenger’s seat and sustained minor injuries.

“We had just topped the first hill on 550 and we’re starting to go down the other side when a car came left of center and hit us pretty much head-on,” he said, speaking by phone from a Columbus hospital on Wednesday. “I remember we rolled at least twice and ended up on the guard rail. For lack of a better word, it was horrible.”

Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Caleb Courson said when he arrived, EMS personnel from the Marietta Fire Department were there, and Warren and Reno fire departments also responded. The other vehicle, a Honda Civic, was driven by Ally Biehl, 20, of Marietta, he said.

“When I got there, the Civic was basically sitting in the middle of the road. There was a sort of debris field leading to the Kia – it had rolled over, and several items were ejected from it – and the Kia was off the right side of the road on the guardrail,” he said.

Jeff Waite said the first responders did an outstanding job.

“I think somebody at the scene called it in. The Marietta Fire Department showed up, they did an excellent job, I cannot give them enough praise for what they did,” he said.

To release Candy, they had to use the jaws of life and remove both doors on the drivers side of the vehicle, he said. “The Highway Patrol gathered all our stuff up and made sure we got it back, everybody was a class act,” he said.

Candy Waite went into surgery at Grant Medical Center about 1 p.m. Wednesday, and Jeff said he expected the surgery to require about two hours. Her injuries included two fractured vertebra in her neck, two in her lower back, at least one broken rib and bleeding in her brain. The bleeding, he said, had been stopped.

At the Gospel Mission Food Pantry early Wednesday afternoon, more than a dozen volunteers assisted those in need of food. Candy Waite normally would be there greeting those who show up, talking to people and comforting the afflicted and helping with the food distribution.

“I spoke with Jeff this morning and told him we’ve got the A-team here,” volunteer Kathy Shively said. “It’s all getting done, we’ve got 17 volunteers today.”

Shively said the pantry so far this week has provided food to 338 people.

Many people who came in asked about Candy.

“I had calls at home last night and this morning, many people asking about her, wondering what they can do,” she said. “Just keep her in your prayers, and ask for God’s blessing.”

Jeff Waite, a retired Marietta Police captain, said he expects a long recovery.

“It’s going to be a process, but she’s a tough woman and we’ll get her through it,” he said. “The folks who took the initiative and opened the pantry today, we can’t thank them enough for going the extra mile. I want to thank the community for the outpouring of support. Right now, we’re just maintaining, the big need is getting her taken care of.”

Courson said charges are pending against Biehl.

“We believe distracted driving might have been involved, but at minimum it will be driving left of center,” he said. “No drugs or alcohol were involved. The charges all depend on what the prosecutor thinks.”