Two young men from Ohio, two tragic deaths just weeks apart over the summer.
One a college student who died in Cincinnati just days after returning home from North Korea, where he’d been detained more than a year. The other a Marine recruit killed when a thrill ride broke apart at the Ohio State Fair.
The mysterious death of Otto Warmbier that set off a war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korea was selected as Ohio’s top story of the year by The Associated Press staff and its member newspapers and broadcasters around the state.
The other big stories in Ohio for 2017 included another year of record-breaking overdose deaths, the deadly midway accident at the state fair and Ohio’s first execution in more than three years.
This past year gave us a few reasons to smile too. A prematurely born hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo melted hearts worldwide and the Cleveland Indians made baseball history by winning 22 consecutive games.
The state’s top 10 stories from 2017, in order:
1. North Korea mystery
Otto Warmbier spent almost a year and a half in captivity in North Korea before he was released and flown home to Cincinnati in a coma with severe brain injuries. He died less than a week later. A coroner’s investigation didn’t shed any light of what caused his injuries, but his parents and President Donald Trump blame torture by the North Korean government, which has denied mistreating Warmbier.
2. Overdose deaths
Despite efforts to stem the drug epidemic , it showed little signs of slowing during the year. The emergence of stronger drugs like the synthetic painkiller fentanyl fueled a surge in fatal overdoses. The state’s largest counties predict this year’s total will surpass the grim milestone set a year ago.
3. Midway tragedy
A video captured the moments when a swinging, spinning thrill ride broke apart on the Ohio State Fair midway in July, flinging riders into the ground. High school student Tyler Jerrell, who had just enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, was killed and seven others were injured in the accident later blamed on excessive corrosion in a steal support beam.
4. Executions resume
Ohio carried out its first execution in July after a three-year pause caused by a troubled execution in 2014 and problems finding new supplies of lethal drugs. But just months later, Kasich stopped the execution of Alva Campbell Jr. when state corrections officials failed after multiple attempts to find a vein suitable for the needle carrying the lethal drug.
5. Fiona mania
Who knew a hippo could be so cute? Born six weeks early in January at the Cincinnati Zoo and unable to stand, Fiona wasn’t given much of a chance. But she became a social media sensation as zookeepers and volunteers gave her around the clock care. Video updates showing Fiona taking a bottle and splashing in the shower have turned her into the zoo’s star attraction.
6. Judge shooting
A county judge in Steubenville was shot outside his courthouse in August, but not before returning fire. A probation officer nearby also shot at the suspect, killing the man. The judge returned to the bench within two months.
7. Kasich’s stand
Kasich’s failed presidential bid a year ago didn’t dim his spotlight or criticism of Trump. Kasich continued to travel the country and has been a regular on national news shows, fueling speculation he might make another White House run.
8. Record streak
The Cleveland Indians captured the nation’s attention with an American League record 22-game winning streak this past summer. They dominated like no other had in more than a century, outscoring their opponents 145-41 during the three-week run.
9. Wreckage recovered
Just days into the new year, divers found the wreckage of a plane carrying six people that vanished over Lake Erie near Cleveland in late December. The remains of some of the victims were recovered later, including by someone fishing along the Pennsylvania shoreline in June.
10. Lawmakers resign
Two Ohio state lawmakers resigned within a month amid allegations of inappropriate behavior. A self-proclaimed Christian conservative legislator stepped down after an office encounter revealed a series of secret gay activities, while a veteran state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, resigned after a sexual harassment complaint was filed against him.