Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Fort Recovery resident killed in tractor accident in Indiana
By Shelley Grieshop
A longtime Celina baseball coach was killed Wednesday in a freak mowing accident near Salamonia, Ind.
Ronald L. Fortkamp, 60, 2866 Philothea Road, Fort Recovery, was pronounced dead at the scene by Jay County Coroner Mark Barnett shortly after 5 p.m.
Authorities believe Fortkamp was operating a small tractor at the Grand Lake Beagle Club when he was struck in the head by a falling tree branch. Emergency crews were summoned to the rural property about 4:50 p.m. by a neighbor, who discovered the accident.
The report from the Jay County Sheriff's Office said Fortkamp - a 1967 graduate of the former Immaculate Conception High School, Celina - left home about 9 a.m. Wednesday. His wife, Yvonne, said his intention was to mow a path at the club where he could use a four-wheeler to run his beagles.
Shortly before 5 p.m., neighbor Don Wellman smelled burning rubber and subsequently found Fortkamp's body on the tractor. Jay County Chief Deputy Rob Bicknell said it appears the tractor became tangled in vines near a wooded area. A branch likely broke free from a nearby tree and struck Fortkamp in the head, Bicknell said.
Authorities aren't sure what time the accident occurred. The incident remains under investigation and an autopsy is pending, Bicknell added.
Fortkamp and his identical twin brother, Donald, began coaching various baseball leagues in Celina more than 35 years ago and retired from the action last year. They most recently had coached ACME and Junior ACME athletes.
The twins' dedication to their team and the sport was to be awarded next month. The pair were chosen for induction into the ACME Hall of Fame and were invited to attend a special ceremony Oct. 17 in Van Wert.
"He was so happy about that," an emotional Yvonne Fortkamp said this morning. "Now he won't get to be there."
Her husband was a huge baseball enthusiast and loved working with the kids, she added. Following early retirement in December from Superior Metal in Wapakoneta, he began spending more time with his other hobby - beagles.
"He started going to different beagle clubs in the area," she said.
Fortkamp was known by family and friends for always giving a helping hand without hesitation.
"Nobody ever had to ask him twice to do a job," his wife said.
When he didn't come home Wednesday afternoon at the expected time, Yvonne Fortkamp called his twin brother to accompany her to the club. When he couldn't be reached, she opted to go alone but arrived too late to say good-bye, she said.
Celina High School Athletic Director Bruce Boley said Fortkamp was truly dedicated to the baseball programs and the kids.
"He and his brother put out a lot of energy. They are one of the reasons we've had such successful programs," Boley said.
Donna Birt, office coordinator for Celina's Parks and Recreation Department, which facilitates the ACME program, said she knew the Fortkamps well.
"Ron was such a good man. I had a great deal of respect for him. He always stood his ground and did the right thing," she said.
Besides his wife, Fortkamp is survived by three children, Scott and Matt Fortkamp and Jennifer Loughridge, and two stepchildren, Chad and Carey Webster. The couple also have 18 grandchildren.