MILLERSBURG — A well-known member of the Fairfield community was being remembered Thursday after his vehicle was hit from behind and pushed into the path of a third vehicle in the opposite lane, police said.
David Hartzler, 54, of Millersburg, was killed in the crash about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to a report from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office.
Known as “Picture Dave,” Hartzler had been photographing the youth of Fairfield Community Schools for their various extracurricular activities for longer than Athletic Director Mark Hofer could remember.
“He had a heart for kids,” Hofer said. “He would take pictures and give them to kids in their different activities from little league through high school sports.”
Hofer reminisced fondly about Hartzler, declaring he “had a heart of gold.”
“When I heard about this last night I felt, and still feel, a state of shock.”
As late as Thursday evening, Hartzler was taking photos for wrestling and for basketball, Fairfield football coach Matt Thacker said.
Hartzler worked as an accountant for Veada Industries in New Paris, according to his obituary. Thacker called the photographer, who didn’t take payment for his work with the school, a “true Fairfield guy, through and through.”
“I saw him yesterday in passing,” he said. “My kids saw him yesterday in wrestling and basketball practice. It’s amazing how fast things can go.”
Fairfield baseball coach Darin Kauffman was in shock Wednesday night when he heard the news about Hartzler.
“My wife was bawling,” Kauffman said. “I asked her what was going on. I went on social media and talked to parents. A lot of parents were affected by it and shocked by it.”
Kauffman can tell many stories about Hartzler and the impact he had on his family and thousands of others in the Fairfield community.
“We were pretty close,” Kauffman said. “He was a neighbor of mine. My family’s baby sitter lived next to his house. I’ve known Dave since I can remember. He was super nice. He would plow our driveways out.”
Athletes got close to Hartzler because of his unselfishness and willingness to do special things for them.
“Dave was part of the Salmon Creek Church south of Benton that would do sectional dinners for the boys basketball team. He would pass out Bibles to the kids,” Kauffman said. “Dave hosted the boys basketball teams at his house and cooked meals for the players.”
Kauffman remembered Hartzler spending time with the basketball players, around the gym, at the football field, at baseball games, track meets, choir events.
“He did it for the kids,” he said. “He loved being part of our community. Kids respected him.”
Hartzer was not married and did not have children of his own, according to Kauffman.
“He treated the community as his kids,” he said. “Nobody had a negative word to say about him. If you ever needed anything, he was the first one there to help you.”
Kauffman said it would “feel weird” not to have Hartzler on the court with his camera Thursday night for Fairfield’s first home girls basketball game.
Hartzler had been traveling north on U.S. 33, according to the police report, and had stopped to turn left onto C.R. 146, as he waited for oncoming traffic to pass, when another passenger vehicle, also traveling north, struck Hartzler from behind. Hartzler’s vehicle was pushed into the southbound lane where a pickup truck slammed into the passenger side of Hartzler’s car.
Hartzler died at the scene, police said.
The driver of the other northbound vehicle, Dzevad Sahbazovic, 45, of Granger, complained of leg pain and was treated at the scene. The driver of the southbound pickup, Brett Faulkner, 59, of Syracuse, complained of head pain and was treated at the scene.
No citations were issued at the scene and the crash remains under investigation, the report said.
— Staff reporter Bob Oppenheim contributed to this report