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Driver killed in crash

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A 38-year-old Columbus man returning home from a first date was killed in a single-vehicle accident early Sunday.

The accident occurred near the intersection of county roads 250W and 500N about six miles northwest of Columbus.

Ralph Berry II, 38, 8753 Miami Ridge Road, was killed in the 3:10 a.m. Sunday accident, said Maj. Todd Noblitt, chief deputy of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

A passenger, Debra “Lacey” Sidwell, 28, 1627 Cottage Ave., Columbus, was listed in stable condition early Sunday evening at Columbus Regional Hospital.

The accident occurred when Berry was driving a 1989 Dodge pickup north on 250W toward his home, accompanied by Sidwell, and failed to maneuver a sharp curve, Noblitt said.

Berry lost control of the vehicle and over-corrected on the turn, causing the vehicle to careen into a ditch and overturn, according to the accident report filed by Deputy Teancum Clark and crash reconstructionist Kevin Abner.

The curve where the accident occurred is on 250W, just before it reaches 500N, which is the road behind the rest park along the southbound lanes of Interstate 65. It is within a quarter mile of Berry’s home, Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher said.

Berry was pronounced dead from head trauma, with alcohol as a contributing factor, Fisher said.

Berry’s blood alcohol content was measured at 0.165, more than double the legal limit to drive, Fisher said.

Neither occupant was wearing a seat belt, but it is unknown whether a seat belt would have saved Berry, Fisher said.

Sidwell said the couple were going toward Berry’s home from Scores Sports Bar and Grill in Columbus after going out to dinner. They had known each other for a couple months, she said by telephone from the hospital. Berry worked on construction projects often in the Franklin area, she said.

After the accident, Sidwell said she tried to wake Berry but was unsuccessful. She found her cellphone on the floor of the truck and called 911, she said.

When sheriff deputies arrived, they could not get a pulse from Berry as he was removed from the truck.

“He died protecting me,” Sidwell said. “He tried to cover himself over me while the truck overturned.”

Sidwell said she was scraped and bruised in the accident.

Investigators said the truck had heavy damage, and its roof caved in when it overturned in the ditch.

The accident report indicates speed and alcohol are considered factors in the crash, Noblitt said. Toxicology tests have been requested as part of the investigation.

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