Toledo police are still investigating to determine if a driver who caused a wreck on Interstate 75 Monday was texting while driving. He died early Tuesday from injuries succumbed in the crash.
According to the Lucas County Coroners Office, Ken Harder, 51, was pronounced dead at 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, following the accident on I-75 late Monday afternoon.
The Toledo Police Department tells WTOL 11 Harder, of Temperance, MI, was traveling north and crashed into the back of an Ohio Department of Transportation dump truck. Police originally reported Harder was texting while driving his GMC Jimmy, and failed to see the ODOT workers or their truck.
ODOT said two workers were outside the vehicle on littler pick-up patrol. One ODOT worker, Mary Rich, 51, was near the ODOT truck that was parked along the side of the highway when it was hit.
"It was pushed so far forward from the point of impact to where it pushed it to, it was just like, it was just a sight to be seen," said Steven Garcia, who was driving by and stopped when he saw the accident.
Rich was taken to the hospital for an arm injury, but has since been released after receiving treatment. The other ODOT worker at the scene was unharmed.
"It could have been so much worse. They said they were just within inches of being in contact with that vehicle, so we're very fortunate and very thankful that they're safe," said ODOT spokesperson Theresa Pollick.
Harder was ejected from his vehicle after impact, and was transported to a Toledo hospital where he later died.
Toledo Police Sgt. Joe Heffernan now says Toledo police do not know if Harder was texting and says that information came to police from a witness to the accident. The witness told police he saw Harder holding a cell phone and appeared to be texting just before the collision.
Heffernan says Toledo police have not recovered the cell phone. He says on Tuesday morning, a police crew walked the accident area looking for the device. Deanna Harder, daughter of the man killed in the accident, says she purchased the Safe-Link emergency phone for her father because of his medical conditions. She says the phone does have texting capability but her father did not know how to text.
Lucas County Deputy Coroner Dr. Cynthia Biser completed an autopsy on Harder Tuesday morning. Dr. Biser concluded Harder died of multiple injuries consistent with a serious vehicle accident. She also said Harder had lung disease, which did not contribute to the accident.
ODOT issued a statement saying, "Our thoughts are with those involved in this accident and their family members."
I-75 in central Toledo was closed at Exit 203A, Bancroft Road, and drivers faced a detour and delays.
Officials are using this as a reminder to all drivers to keep eyes on the road and avoid distractions.
Ohio State Highway Patrol officials say distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving and say even one second of distraction can pose a threat.
"If you're on the interstate and you're driving 65 mph, you're traveling approximately 90 feet per second," said Lt. Jerrod Savidge.
That means 90 feet with drivers not looking where they are going.
As spring approaches, even more ODOT and construction workers will be out on the road.
"We're out there. We're working. We're trying to do our job, and it's very important for everyone to do their jobs to drive and be aware," said Pollick.
OSHP officials say they do not have statistics yet on how many crashes are caused by distracted driving because they just started keeping track a few months ago.
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