Investigators say witness’ claim of phone use erroneous in crash that killed Mich. man

The scene of an accident that killed Ken Harder on I-75 North under the Bancroft St. bridge.
The scene of an accident that killed Ken Harder on I-75 North under the Bancroft St. bridge.

Deanna Harder never had seen her father send a text message, which made a witness report that he was texting while driving before his fatal car crash this week all the more puzzling.

Ken Harder, 51, of Temperance died Tuesday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after his sport utility vehicle veered off the side of 1-75 near Bancroft Street on Monday and smashed into an Ohio Department of Transportation pickup on the side of the road.

A police news release initially said Mr. Harder “was texting while driving,” and authorities later said that report was based on a semi driver who told police he observed Mr. Harder “distracted by his cell phone” shortly before the crash.

Police on Friday said it was determined Mr. Harder was not texting or talking on his phone when the accident occurred.

Sgt. Joe Heffernan, a police spokesman, said investigators recovered part of Mr. Harder’s cell phone from the scene, and it was examined by the computer crimes unit.

“We know that he was not on a phone call, and he was not [on] a text,” Sergeant Heffernan said.

The last phone activity was a 19-second call at 3:39 p.m. on Monday; the crash occurred about 20 minutes later.

Sergeant Heffernan said the investigation is mostly finished, and what caused the crash might never be known.

“It makes me feel better that my dad’s name is cleared. That’s what was really bothering me,” said Ms. Harder, 33, of Oregon.

Earlier this week, she explained that her father’s cell phone was a basic model, and he showed no interest in texting. Sergeant Heffernan said investigators could not determine whether Mr. Harder was dialing a number when the crash occurred and also said it is possible the witness saw some other object in his hand.

The sergeant said Mr. Harder was at fault, and police conducted the investigation for the family’s benefit.

The collision occurred when Mr. Harder’s vehicle veered off the right side of the freeway.

His side mirror hit an ODOT worker, who was standing behind a truck to pick up debris. His vehicle then smashed into the ODOT truck. Police said the injured worker was not seriously hurt.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: or 419-724-6065.