Howard County Sheriff Marty Talbert says speed and alcohol played a role in a Friday morning crash that left one man dead and another injured.

The sheriff, Indiana State Police and the coroner’s office are investigating the 4 a.m. crash in which the men were ejected when the SUV they were riding in sheared off a utility pole and rolled over near Judson and Malfalfa roads about 31/2 miles west of Kokomo.

The driver, Matthew C. Cash, 22, of the 8600 block of West 100 North was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Richard W. Lynch, 26, of the 900 block of South Buckeye Street, Kokomo, was taken to St. Joseph Hospital for treatment of cuts and bruises.

Sheriff deputies found Cash lying in a farm field about 15 feet from his vehicle. Lynch told investigators he was partially trapped underneath the vehicle, but freed himself before rescue crews arrived.

Authorities said Cash was driving east on 200 North (Judson Road), when his vehicle left the roadway. Attempting to steer back onto the pavement, Cash overcorrected, went off the other side of the road and sheared off a wooden utility pole.

The 1995 Chevrolet Blazer flipped and rolled once, coming to rest on its wheels.

Cash died at the scene of massive head and internal injuries, according to authorities.

State police crash reconstructionist Sgt. Rick Brown is assisting Deputy Mike Ogle with the follow-up investigation.

“We did not locate any witnesses to the crash. Another motorist traveling on Judson Road saw the wreckage and called 911,” Sheriff Marty Talbert said.

Coroner Brad Bray said toxicology tests revealed Cash had a blood alcohol level of .22, more than twice the legal limit.

“We knew at the scene that speed was a factor in the severity of this crash, but we now have additional answers,” the sheriff said.

Drunken driving and speeding are a lethal combination. Some Christmas cards, gifts, and decorations that flew from the vehicle were scattered about the scene. What a senseless death.”

Howard County roadways had been fatal free since June 25.

“We went six months without a fatal crash on county roads, and I was hoping we wouldn’t experience another one this year. Not a good way to start out a New Year’s holiday weekend in which many people will chose to celebrate with alcoholic beverages,” Talbert said.

Cash was convicted in April 2004 in Howard Superior Court III of operating while intoxicated. “The bottom line here is you can’t drive drunk. You might get by with it a time or two, but eventually it will land

you in jail, in legal trouble, or in the morgue,” Talbert said.

Talbert said Cash leaves behind two small children, each younger than 3.

“That is the real tragedy here,” the sheriff said. “If your going to go out for New Year’s Eve, please use a designated driver, take a cab, or call for a ride if you've had too much to drink.

“The consequences of a bad decision can haunt those you love for a lifetime.”

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