Police: Alcohol likely factor in fatal crash

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Authorities identified the driver as 51-year-old Michael Francis Oetker of Lebanon. An autopsy showed Oetker had a blood alcohol level of .205 at the time of his death. Positive identification was made through dental records, investigators said.

Oetker has served in the military for more than 20 years. Investigators spoke to his son and daughter, who are both active military and stationed out of state.

Michael Francis Oetker

Michael Francis Oetker


TIPTON – Howard County authorities say alcohol likely played a role in a fatal crash on U.S. 31.

Just before 1 a.m. Thursday, Howard County dispatchers were notified of that a red pickup truck was going northbound on U.S. 31 at excessive speeds. The vehicle was also swerving in and out of traffic, the witness said.

A few minutes later, a resident who lives near the U.S. 31 bypass in Tipton County told dispatchers she’d heard an explosion and said she saw something burning on the road. When deputies arrived, they found a truck engulfed in flames; the vehicle matched the description of the vehicle that had been driving erratically.

Investigators said the truck was going north in the southbound lane before striking a crane parked on the road. The impact was enough to dislodge the crane for several feet before it came to rest on the railing of a bridge.

Deputies found several smashed barricades where the vehicle had forced its way onto the bypass.

Once the fire was out, police found the truck’s driver dead. Investigators believe the vehicle had been involved in a series hit-and-run incidents in Hamilton County.

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