Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 7, 2013

Two die in traffic crash on U.S. 31

Police say 87-year-old Peru man failed to yield

By Mike Fletcher
Tribune staff writer

— BUNKER HILL — Two Peru residents died Wednesday morning in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 31 at Ind. 218.

An Indiana State Police report said Russell Ooten, 87, Peru, was driving a 1995 Ford Econoline van southbound on U.S. 31 at about 9:50 a.m. when he attempted to turn eastbound onto Ind. 218 and failed to yield at the median crossover. He struck a northbound 2013 Chevrolet Suburban van.

Earl Ooten, 79, and Margie Highfill, 79, who were passengers in the Ford, died in the crash. Highfill was pronounced dead at the scene by Todd Burns, Miami County Deputy Coroner. Earl Ooten died in Parkview Hospital in Ft. Wayne, where he was taken for treatment, state police reported.

Russell Ooten suffered a head injury and was transported by ambulance to Dukes Memorial Hospital. He was later transferred to Lutheran Hospital in Ft. Wayne.

The driver of the Chevrolet, Jeremy Burton, 26, was transported to Dukes Memorial Hospital with a complaint of back and neck pain.

After impact, Ooten’s van continued southeast into the lot of a gas station. It came to rest after hitting the protective barrier next to a row of gas pumps, the state police reported.

The Miami County Sheriff Department, Bunker Hill Police Department, Grissom Fire Department, the Pipe Creek Fire Department, Miami County Emergency Management and Galveston EMS assisted state police in the crash.

The crash is still under investigation, but police said they don’t think alcohol or narcotics was a factor.

Mike Fletcher, Tribune crime reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8565, or via email at mike.fletcher@kokomotribune.com.