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Police and fire


Drivers in fatal crashes named

I-469 victim, 51, grew up in area, loved cabinetry

A New Haven man and a Fort Wayne woman were identified as two people who died in separate crashes Wednesday in Allen County.

Rick Richhart, 51, of New Haven, was headed east on Parent Road about 2:30 p.m. when his truck crashed through a guardrail at the end of the rural road, went up an embankment and flipped onto Interstate 469, according to the Allen County Coroner’s Office and sheriff’s department.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death was blunt force trauma and ruled it accidental.

Richhart, a New Haven native, grew up in the area where he died, his wife of 12 years, Cindy Richhart, said Thursday night.

“I just talked with his brother tonight, and he said they used to drive that way all the time,” she said.

She and Richhart’s family wonder if a doctor’s appointment before the crash could have distracted him while he drove.

“He was in shock with what the doctor said, and I think he kind of zoned (out),” Cindy Richhart said, adding that her husband called her cellphone that afternoon, but she missed the call because she was at work.

The couple had been together 20 years and met at Tools, Dies and Molds in New Haven, where they both worked.

Woodworking was a passionate hobby for Richhart, who made the kitchen cabinets for the kitchen at Cindy Richhart’s daughter’s home.

Despite his love for the craft, he kept it a personal hobby and didn’t try to make a business of it. His willingness to make the cabinets for Cindy Richhart’s daughter, though, was not surprising.

“He was a very gentle person. He would go out of his way to help anybody,” she said.

A second crash later that evening left a Fort Wayne woman in critical condition, but she later died at a hospital.

Jami E. Beale, 25, was headed south on St. Joe Road when she suddenly turned across oncoming traffic and was hit in the side by a car, according to the coroner’s office and Fort Wayne police.

A third vehicle, a pickup truck, tried to miss Beale’s car only to end up hitting the car that struck Beale, police said.

The other drivers were not seriously injured.

Investigators said they do not know what caused her to turn abruptly into the path of northbound traffic.

The coroner’s office ruled her death accidental from blunt force trauma.

Richhart and Beale were the 17th and 18th traffic deaths in Fort Wayne and Allen County this year.