The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 17, 2021 1:00 am

Fatal crash leaves family grief-stricken

Car struck home; victim worked 25 years at YMCA

JIM CHAPMAN | The Journal Gazette

Jalyce Martin didn't celebrate Christmas. She had to plan her mother's funeral.

Gwendolyn Martin was killed when a car crashed into her home Dec. 21.

“Christmas isn't Christmas anymore,” Jalyce Martin said. “It will always be overshadowed by my mom's death.”

Gwendolyn Martin was one of 35 people who died in vehicle crashes in Allen County last year, according to the Allen County coroner. That's a 12.5% decrease from 2019, when 40 people were killed in county crashes. Thirty-three people died in 2018.

Gwendolyn Martin, known as “Mama Gwen,” celebrated her 63rd birthday on Dec. 19, two days before an out-of-control car traveling north on McClellan Street hit some parked, unoccupied vehicles and crashed into Martin's home. She was trapped underneath.

Police dogs were unsuccessful tracking two people in the car who fled the scene, police said. No one has been charged, but police are looking for two persons of interest.

Jalyce Martin has been unable to return to her Atlanta home because she has had to deal with the aftermath of her mother's tragic death.

“You're forced to pick up the pieces you didn't realize we needed,” Jalyce Martin said. 

Gwendolyn Martin worked more than 25 years at the Central Branch of the YMCA.

Amanda Fall, the branch's executive director, said Martin opened the Central Branch at 3:30 a.m. She listened to gospel music at her desk every day and took time to know the Y's members.

“She commanded this place,” Fall said. “She greeted you when you walked in the door. She went above and beyond.”

Martin's death was the only one that involved a car crashing into a building. Other crashes involved vehicles colliding with each other or hitting trees or being driven off roads. 

Lt. Tony Maze of the Fort Wayne Police Department suspects the coronavirus might have played a part in the county having fewer fatal crash victims last year. “No place to go – working from home – not as much vehicle traffic on the roads,” he said in an email.

Nineteen of the victims died because of crashes on Fort Wayne streets. The other 16 were involved in crashes on county roads.

Several fatal crashes were on highways, including at least two on U.S. 33. One was May 2 when a vehicle was struck head-on by another vehicle trying to pass a semi in the 8500 block of U.S. 33. A motorcyclist crashed in the 10000 block of U.S. 33 June 3.

That crash was one of five involving motorcycles last year.

That's fewer than the 13 motorcyclists who died in 2019.

Four people died in three crashes in which the drivers were fleeing city police. Criminal charges are pending in at least two crashes. One of those cases is set for trial in June.

Gwendolyn Martin's family and friends are wondering if charges will be filed in her death. They're also wondering what their lives will be like without her.

“She could handle everything right,” Jalyce Martin said. “She was a lot to a lot of people.”

At a glance

Allen County fatal crash victims:

2020: 35

2019: 40

2018: 33

2017: 45

2016: 37

2015: 31

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