Police say a vehicle struck an Ohio Department of Transportation vehicle as two workers were at the side of the road picking up litter. The unoccupied truck was pushed 35 to 40 feet, landing directly under the Bancroft Street overpass in Monday’s accident, police say.
Updated story at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
A witness told police he saw a Temperance man “distracted by his cell phone” shortly before the driver crashed his car into light-duty dump truck Monday on I-75 in Toledo and died, authorities said.
Ken Harder, 51, was pronounced dead at 1:40 a.m. today at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo police said.
Mr. Harder was critically injured when his sport utility vehicle slammed into an Ohio Department of Transportation truck whose workers were picking up litter on the side of I-75 North.
A police press release issued today stated Mr. Harder “was texting while driving.” Authorities stated later today that the report was based on a semi-truck driver witness who told police Mr. Harder passed him shortly before the crash. That witness saw Mr. Harder “distracted by his phone,” according to Officer Kevin Konz, accident investigator.
Officer Konz said his earlier report that Mr. Harder was texting while driving is “probably worded slightly wrong” and that an investigation continues into how Mr. Harder might have been using his phone.
“We are investigating whether he was physically texting. We are working on trying to figure out what exactly what was going on,” he said, adding he plans to do a follow-up interview with the truck driver witness who indicated Mr. Harder was not speeding.
Mr. Harder’s daughter Deanna Harder said today her father didn’t know how to text and never showed an interest in learning. His phone was a basic model that did not include a keyboard or other features that make it easier to send text messages, she said.
“He did not know how to text, so that’s what we are trying to figure out here,” she said.
She also questioned what another motorist could have seen while driving on an interstate.
Police said they recovered parts of a cell phone from the accident scene today but have not determined if it is Mr. Harder’s.
Police said two ODOT workers were on litter detail outside their truck, which was parked off the interstate in the nondriving lanes at the Bancroft Street exit.
Mr. Harder’s SUV slammed into the back of the ODOT vehicle, hitting worker Mary Rich, 51, with a side mirror, police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said. Mr. Harder was thrown from his 2000 GMC Jimmy.
Ms. Rich was also taken to St. Vincent, but she was not seriously hurt. The second ODOT worker, whose name was unavailable, was not injured.
The two-person crew had pulled over to pick up a tarp that was on the side of the road when their vehicle, a small dump truck, was hit at about 4 p.m.
Northbound I-75 was closed for three and a half hours after the incident, reopening at about 7:30 p.m.