A well-known competitor in the horse-pulling world has died of injuries he received in a head-on traffic accident in Shelby County.
Oscar David Ethington, 69, of Defoe was killed Friday when the Ford pickup truck he was driving was struck by another driver who veered across the center line of Ky. 55, about two miles north of the intersection with the Shelbyville Bypass.
The other driver, Susan Hughes, 42, of Sparta was taken to the University of Louisville with non-life-threatening injuries and later released.
Sheriff’s Det. Jason Rice, who is investigating the accident, said he has not determined what caused the woman to veer into the path of Ethington’s vehicle. He said he is in the process of interviewing witnesses and working to determine other factors in the crash, such as speed.
The accident shut down Eminence Pike for close to three hours, from shortly before noon to nearly 3 p.m.
Shelby County Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Ivers pronounced Ethington dead at the scene.
Ethington’s sister, Beverly Creasey of Shelbyville, said her brother was just recovering from open-heart surgery and was beginning to feel better.
“It’s just not fair,” she said.
Ethington had undergone rehabilitation at Crestview in Shelbyville after his surgery.
Creasey said Ethington had been very devoted to horse pulling since he was a boy, and he traveled all over the United States and Canada, winning blue ribbons with his Belgians.
Ethington’s reputation as a draft-horse champion is well known from coast to coast, said Gerald Claunch, secretary of the Bluegrass Horse Pulling Association.
Ethington had won more than 1,000 medals and trophies that adorned his home, and he set a world record driving a team of draft horses at a county fair in Lenton, Ind. He still trained his eight horses daily on his Pleasureville farm with a regimen that included pulling a 1,000-pound sled with a driver 3 miles a day.
“Oscar has been pulling for many years, and everybody in the horse-pulling business knows him; and not just in Kentucky, but all across the United States,” he said.
Bill Torrey, with horsepullingresults.com in Tolland, Conn., said he was very saddened to hear of Ethington’s death.
“He was well-known all over the world,” he said.
Claunch said even when Ethington was recovering from surgery he didn’t let that keep him away from competitions.
“His grandsons would drive him and the horses to wherever the pulls were; you couldn’t keep him down,” he said. “He loved his horses.”
Creasey said her brother got his love of draft horses from their father, Huston Ethington, growing up in Defoe, just northeast of the Shelby County border in Henry County. She said he trained his first team of horses at age 16 and hadn’t stopped in more than 50 years.
“He had his surgery in April, but he didn’t stop,” she said. “He was right out with his horses.”
Creasey smiled through tears as she reflected on the question of what kind of person her brother had been.
“He was a good-hearted person who was a man of honor and, most of all, a man of his word,” she said. “When he told you something, you could bet he meant it. Everybody loved him. If there was anybody who didn’t, I never heard about it.”
Ethington is survived by a son and two daughters, as well as several brothers and sisters, with several relatives from Shelby County.
Services will be Thursday at 1 p.m. at Sholar Funeral Home in Pleasureville.