Local News

Sep 13, 2010 10:34 PM by Kelly Orsini and Ariel Wesler

Man killed in rollover was well-liked Santa Maria businessman

The California Highway Patrol has identified the man killed in a rollover crash off Highway 166 Sunday as 56-year-old Michael Draper of Nipomo. Investigators say alcohol appears to have been a factor and that Draper was also not wearing a seat belt when he swerved to avoid a deer and crashed his jeep into a ditch.

The crash happened just before 6 p.m. on a private road north of Alamo Creek Road.

Draper was President of Santa Maria Valley Crop Service and a well-known Santa Maria businessman.

At Santa Maria Valley Crop Service, the mood was solemn. 56-year-old Micke Draper had led the company for more than 20 years.

"He was more than a boss. He was a best friend. The best boss you can ever work for, a very loving, caring person. It just doesn't seem lie this is real," said Jackie Gutierrez, who's worked with Mike for the past eight years.

"When I found out what area it was in, a 56-year-old man, my worst came true," said Sandy Smeal, who's been with the company for five years.

Co-workers say Mike was born in Santa Maria and donated so much of his time and money to the community. He was actively involved in 4-H and helped many non-profit organizations.

"I don't think he new the word 'no'," Smeal said.

A hunter and a travelr, Mike kept a casual atmosphere at the office.

"I have my dog here in the office. He let me keep her since she was a baby, so he would always give her treats," Gutierrez said.

Mike ran the business with his son, who will most likely take over, picking up where his father left off.

"Just keep going and just try to move on. Be strong while he's not here. It won't be the same, but we still got to keep going. We owe him that much," Gutierrez said.

Santa Maria Valley Crop Service treats many of the fields in the area with fertilizer and pesticides.

The CHP says Draper's passenger, a 58-year-old Santa Maria woman, was wearing a seat belt and was not hurt in the crash.

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