From the Vault: Driver plowed through Oktoberfest crowd, injured 27 people in 1999

Watch archive video

CINCINNATI -- Seventeen Oktoberfests ago, celebration turned to chaos when a driver plowed through a barricaded street, striking more than two dozen festival-goers.

Watch the 1999 video package above from the night of the crash at Oktoberfest.

Michael Cowperthwaite, 25, drove his car through an Oktoberfest crowd, injuring 27, on Sept. 19, 1999.

Police said Cowperthwaite was first spotted driving recklessly on Walnut Street. He then hit a parked car, turned onto Sixth Street and drove the wrong way, then turned onto Main Street, again driving the wrong way. He drove through the festival barricades on Main Street and struck several people before colliding with an oncoming taxi near Fourth Street.

Those hit suffered fractured and broken bones, but no life-threatening injuries.


Cowperthwaite admitted to drinking Downtown the night of the crash; his blood-alcohol content was twice the legal limit, police said, and his car contained empty bottles of alcohol.

The 25-year-old was arrested when he left University of Cincinnati's hospital the next morning. He was still wearing a hospital gown at the time of his arrest.


Almost five months later, Cowperthwaite pleaded guilty to 18 counts and was sentenced to 14 and a half years in prison. He wept throughout his sentencing hearing.


Cowperthwaite's attorney said his client "feels horrible about what happened and feels he should be punished for what happened." 

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