An SUV flipped over on a county road in western Wisconsin on New Year’s Day, killing the unbelted driver and leaving the belted passenger unscathed, authorities said Thursday.

The crash occurred about 5:15 a.m. Wednesday on County Hwy. A on the western edge of New Richmond, the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office said.

Killed was driver Taylor J. Casey, 19, of Hudson, Wis. Casey, a former varsity hockey player and 2012 graduate of Hudson High School, was not wearing his seat belt when the southbound SUV went into the ditch to his left and rolled over.

Uninjured was Antonio L. Bloomquist, also 19 and from Hudson. He was wearing his seat belt, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Sheriff John Shilts said his office is investigating whether “alcohol may have been a factor.”

He added that the crash clearly illustrated why it is wise to wear a seat belt. “In my well over 30 years in this business, it’s my experience and my opinion that it’s always better to be wearing a seat belt,” he said.

Shilts said studies show that more than a quarter of motorists and passengers in Wisconsin say they do not regularly buckle up.

Paul Walsh