Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Oktoberfest car crash victims still upbeat

All say they'll be back next year

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Clermont County resident Henry Malinowski's ankle was injured in the accident Sunday night.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Victims of the crash that ended this weekend's Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati say they're still stunned by the close call, but vow they'll be back next year for the beer, the oompah and the cream puffs.

        Amazingly upbeat, Henry Malinowski of Miami Township said he still was mad Monday that his beer spilled when the red Chevy glanced off of him. Kathy Brady of Fairfield joked that she may opt for Irish festivals in the future. And Lori Ditchen of Cherry Grove was craving the cream puff the careening car knocked from her grasp.

        But beyond the stress-induced humor, victims emphasized that they felt lucky to be alive. Many remain angry at the motorist who bashed through barricades Sunday night and plowed through the crowd on Main Street downtown, injuring 27 people who were enjoying the two-day festival's final hour.

        “I'm shocked and totally dismayed and very disappointed that anyone could take that many people's lives in their hands so carelessly, especially that many children,” said Shannon Caldwell, 47, of Oakley, noting the large number of babies and children at the festival.

        “I really believe it has to be a lack of respect and belief in God, because if you believe in God and respect human life, you couldn't do something like that.”

        Ms. Caldwell and her sister Susan Jeffre of Springfield Township were sitting in wooden chairs in front of the Krrrrisp Kraut Fest Tent on Main Street just south of Fifth Street.

        The Franz Klaber Orchestra was playing the Chicken Dance. Everywhere, people flexed their fingers like bird beaks, flapped their arms, waved their behinds and clapped their hands.

Twenty-eight people were taken to hospitals Sunday night after a motorist drove through barricades into crowds gathered on Main Street for Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati.

All were treated and released.

Those injured:

Beverly Alexander, 40, White Oak.
Jami Anderson, 28, Florence.
Kathy Brady, 45, Fairfield.
Brian Brazile, 28, a Cincinnati police officer.
Brian Brimelow, 64, Springfield Township.
Lois Brimelow, 65, Springfield Township.
Paul Broxterman, 36, Westwood.
Connie Broxterman, 26, Westwood.
Shannon Caldwell, 47, Oakley.
Shalom Davis, 13, Over-the-Rhine.
Lori Ditchen, 22, Cherry Grove.
Gina Elliott, 35, Hyde Park.
Jim Fritsch, 35, Price Hill.
George Ghanbar, 40, Covington.
Tonya Goodspeed, 30, Batavia.
Colleen Harden, 36, Mount Airy.
Linda Honerkamp, 41, Loveland.
Susan Jeffre, 52, Springfield Township.
Don Kruetzkamp, 50, Price Hill.
Alfred Lang, 59, Springfield Township.
Henry Malinowski, 71, Miami Township.
Kerrick Preston, 27, Dublin, Ohio.
Kirk Preston, 23, Clifton.
Chris Scorti, 34, Covedale.
Roger Shambaug, 26, Simpsonville, Ky.
Tim Toft, 37, Mason.
Pat Troehler, 61, Union Township.
Georgia Volpenhein, 59, Anderson Township.

        “The band was playing, and everybody was just having a good time,” she said. “I was talking to a girl I went to high school with, and all of a sudden, she just jumped away. Then the car hit my chair and I went flying.

        “It happened so fast but it seemed like slow motion. There were all these little children and old people around, and you think: What if they had been in the way?”

        Mr. Malinowski was in the way. He doesn't like to think of himself as old, but at 71, he was the oldest victim. He headed to the fest Sunday evening because he hankered for a beer, a mett, a potato pancake “and maybe something else.”

        When he heard the familiar strains of the Chicken Dance, he ambled over to the Krrrrisp Kraut stage “for a little research.” Mr. Malinowski, a professional disc jockey, often plays the popular song at wedding receptions and parties and likes to see how other DJs and band leaders involve listeners.

        “I heard people yelling, saw a big flash (from headlights), and then I was hit,” he said. He injured his knee and foot.

        “There were bodies all over the place. He was moving fast, and he knocked people over like pins at a bowling alley.”

        Mr. Malinowski felt a little light-headed and walked with a limp Monday. Driver Michael Cowperthwaite, 25, of Union Township in Clermont County, should go to jail if convicted, Mr. Malinowski said.

        “We're all paying the price for his silliness and stupidness today,” he said. “There's a lesson he has to learn that he obviously hasn't learned yet. He has to pay the price now.”

        George Ghanbar, 40, is paying the price with a fractured knee.

        The Covington resident was talking to friends and listening to the Franz Klaber Orchestra when the swerving car ran into him, throwing him on its hood.

        He studies computer communications at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. He has no job and canceled his health insurance two months ago when his rates more than doubled.

        “I never figured something like this would happen — a car going through a crowd and hitting me,” he said.

        Ms. Brady, 45, a Sharonville tax clerk who suffered leg wounds, said she won't allow the crash to ruin future outings.

        “It was great fun. It just ended badly,” she said.

        Ms. Ditchen, whose hip and stomach were injured, agreed: “It's a shame that one person has to ruin it for everyone.”


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