LOUISVILLE, Ky.-The excitement of its first appearance at the World Tire Conference & Exhibition quickly turned to sadness for an Italian company when one of its principals died under dubious circumstances. The 29-year-old son of the owner of Polenghi Mario, a company in Codogno, Italy, that makes and markets tire valves and related items, died the morning of April 17, when he either fell or jumped from a highway overpass several minutes from the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville, site of the International Tire & Rubber Association's annual trade show.
Mario Polenghi was transported to the University of Louisville Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Sgt. Jay Pierce, with the Louisville Police Department's homicide unit, told TIRE BUSINESS that although no suicide note was found, the incident is being investigated as a possible suicide, based on information provided by several witnesses.
``We're still getting calls from people who say they saw him or somebody walking along the roadway,'' Mr. Pierce said. A woman watching from a nearby hotel room told police Mr. Polenghi jumped from the bridge, and other witnesses interviewed by the police also reported that he jumped.
``There's no way he could have lost his balance and fallen, not according to the witnesses,'' said Mr. Pierce, noting the highway ramp on which Mr. Polenghi was walking has no pedestrian walkway, but does have a railing, ``so he did have to climb up and over it.''
Richard Weitner, a company spokesman, doubted Mr. Polenghi killed himself. ``He was not depressed-just worrying that the show would go alright. His death is a mystery to us.''
Mr. Weitner said that about five minutes before his death, Mr. Polenghi called for an airport limousine after deciding to return to Italy, reportedly because he was frustrated by his inability to speak English well. He then took his luggage and set out from the Executive Inn East onto the nearby highway ramp leading to the airport.
On the last day of the trade show, Mr. Polenghi's father, Luigi, 61, still appeared stunned. Mario was eventually to take over the operation of the company, founded in the 1920s to manufacture motorcycles.
``Mario had no problems of any kind,'' he said. ``He had prepared everything for the show the day before he died. The journey from Italy was very tiring, but there is no reason for what happened.''
Mr. Weitner said there was no thought given to closing the company's booth and going home, because the family had to wait for the coroner to release Mario Polenghi's body.
Mr. Polenghi is survived by his wife, pregnant with their second child, and a 2-year-old son.