Ekern Not Under the Influence : Accident: Authorities also say he might still be alive had he worn his seat belt.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tests to determine if former Ram linebacker Carl Ekern was under the influence of alcohol when he was killed in a one-car crash Wednesday morning were negative, according to Jim Malouf, chief coroner investigator for Kern County.

Ekern, who was en route to Minden, Nev., where he was a volunteer counselor and coach at a camp for juvenile delinquents, died of head injuries he suffered when he was thrown from his vehicle after careening off California 395 seven miles south of Ridgecrest.

"We found nothing," Malouf said. "No alcohol, no drugs of choice, which is just about the way it looked. There was nothing at the scene to indicate alcohol or drugs were involved."

Malouf said that Ekern, 36, probably fell asleep at the wheel of his 1984 Jeep, awoke as he drifted onto the right shoulder and over-corrected across both lanes. The vehicle then struck a dirt berm and became airborne before rolling several times.

Malouf also indicated that Ekern might have survived the crash if he had been wearing his seatbelt.

"If he had been wearing his seat belt, there's a good possibility he would have survived the crash," Malouf said. "There wasn't the kind of damage to the vehicle that would have caused these types of injuries."

Funeral services have been scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church in Sunnyvale, near San Jose. The Rams, who will be in Berlin for an exhibition game against the Kansas City Chiefs next week, will attend a special memorial service after their return Aug. 12.

A trust fund has been established to help with the education of Ekern's three children, sons Brett, 7, and Bryce, 6, and daughter Allison, 10 months.

Kicker Mike Lansford, one of a Ekern's closest friends on the team, rushed to Ekern's Fountain Valley home to console Ekern's wife, Patti, as soon as he heard the news Wednesday.

"This is the first time anything like this has ever happened to someone I was this close to, so I just kind of reacted," Lansford said.

Lansford said that Patti Ekern came up with the idea of holding the special memorial service as a way of allowing members of the team to pay their last respects.

"Carl and I did a lot together," Lansford said. "It's such a shame. He lived such an aggressive life. He couldn't sit still for one minute. He was always reading or exploring or planning or doing an activity. He was just so excited about everything."

Ram Notes

The Rams previewed their 1989 highlight film, "Fight to the Finish," during lunch Wednesday but the film's leading man--Pro Bowl linebacker Kevin Greene--wasn't on hand. Greene and his agent, Marvin Demoff, met with Ram management Wednesday. "No numbers were discussed, but it's sounding better," Greene said Thursday. "It doesn't look like I'll be going to Germany, but I do feel like we made some progress." Greene said no further meetings are scheduled, but he assumes negotiations will resume when the Rams return from Germany.

Linebacker Mel Owens had his lower back examined Thursday and his injury was again diagnosed as back spasms. He remains on a day-to-day basis. . . . Cornerback Darryl Henley, who was rushed to the hospital after suffering hypoglycemic shock Monday, returned to practice Wednesday and promptly suffered a right groin strain. Henley is listed as day to day. . . . Linebacker Larry Kelm's right big toe was stepped on during Thursday's morning practice and he also is listed as day to day.

Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this story.

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