Preble County deputy, second driver die in head-on crash

DeWine orders flags lowered in honor of Deputy Joshua Hamilton, life of Michael Gayhart II.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

A Preble County Sheriff’s deputy died Monday morning in a double-fatal, head-on crash in Gratis Twp.

Sheriff Mike Simpson identified the deputy as 34-year-old Joshua Isaac Hamilton of Eldorado. The second driver who also died in the crash was identified as 36-year-old Michael Eugene Gayhart II of West Elkton by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday ordered U.S. and state flags to be flown at half staff in honor of Hamilton and Gayhart on all public buildings and grounds throughout Preble County, the Ohio Statehouse, the Vern Riffe Center and the Rhodes State Office Tower through sunset on the day of the second of the two funerals.

Credit: Preble County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Preble County Sheriff's Office

Crews were dispatched around 4 a.m. to a report of a head-on crash involving a sheriff’s cruiser in the 4700 block of state Route 503, between Gratis and West Alexandria.

Hamilton was traveling south on state Route 503 in a marked 2018 Ford Explorer, while Gayhart was heading north when they collided, according to the highway patrol, which is investigating the collision that temporarily closed state Route 503 in both directions.

A 911 caller who spotted the wrecked vehicles said it looked like they crashed head-on.

“Oh, God. It’s bad,” the man said.

The caller said the deputy was unresponsive and that the other vehicle was on its side with major damage to its front, and that its driver also was not responsive.

“We were going to work and came up on it,” the man told the dispatcher. “I’m sorry.”

Hamilton was taken to the Kettering Preble ER Campus in Eaton, where he was pronounced dead. Gayhart also died in the crash. No passengers were in either vehicle when the crash occurred.

Hamilton had been with the sheriff’s office since May 2022. He worked in the Preble County Jail before he was promoted in June to road patrol. He was a member of the U.S. Army National Guard and had served in the U.S. Navy Reserve, the sheriff’s office said.

Funeral arrangements for Hamilton, who is survived by parents and his 10-year-old daughter, are pending.

Law enforcement across the Miami Valley, Ohio and beyond extended condolences to Hamilton’s family and fellow deputies, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

“Deputy Hamilton dedicated his life to serving his community. He will be rightfully remembered as a hero,” he said. “My heart breaks for all who mourn today, and I pray for comfort for this community and the Preble County Sheriff’s Office.”

“The Dayton Police Department expresses deep sorrow and extends heartfelt condolences to the Preble County Sheriff’s Office as well as the family, friends and colleagues of the deputy who tragically lost his life in a vehicle crash this morning,” the Dayton department posted on X.

The Middletown Division of Police posted on Facebook: “Our hearts and prayers go out to our brothers and sisters of the Preble County Sheriff’s Office as they mourn the loss of one of their own this morning.”

A social media post from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, near the Tampa, St. Petersburg area in Florida, also extended condolences on the death of Hamilton, and said, “may his memory never fade, and his sacrifice never be forgotten.”

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