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Update: 3 hospitalized after crash on Highway 14 bridge

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Gazette staff
December 26, 2013

TOWN OF JANESVILLE—An icy bridge was the primary cause of a head-on crash that sent three people to the hospital and closed Highway 14 west of Janesville for nearly two hours Thursday.

The crash on Four Mile Bridge sent a westbound Ford Escape spinning until it stopped with one rear tire over the side of the bridge's concrete side barrier. It was not in danger of falling into the Rock River, however, according to Rock County Sheriff's Office reports.

The Escape was driven by Cathy Venema, 54, of Darien. Venema's daughter, 20-year-old Shea Lahr of Clovis, N.M., was in the front passenger seat.

The Escape collided head-on with an eastbound GMC Envoy driven by Leslie Turkelson, 72, of Brooklyn, according to a news release.

Venema was initially listed in serious condition, according to the news release. She was later transferred to University Hospital in Madison, where she was in critical condition Thursday night. 

Turkelson was listed in serious condition Thursday night at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, while Lahr was listed in fair condition at Mercy Hospital.

A third vehicle, a pickup truck driven by 38-year-old Chad Howlett of Evansville, sustained minor damage in the accident.

Turkelson was driving east on Highway 14 with Howlett's truck behind him. Investigators believe Turkelson lost control on the ice-covered bridge, causing him to cross the centerline, his SUV striking Venema's head-on.

Howlett drove past the collision, with the truck sustaining only minor damage. He was not injured.

The two SUVs blocked the highway in both directions. Janesville firefighters had to extricate Venema, Turkelson and Lahr.

All occupants wore seatbelts. No citations were issued and no further investigation is scheduled, according to the news release.

Cmdr. Troy Knudson of the sherriff's office noted that bridge surfaces often are the first to freeze in cold weather.

“The bridge had iced up. It was in particularly bad shape at that time,” Knudson said.

The sheriff's office has asked the state Traffic Operations Center to inspect the bridge's side-barrier. The bridge remains open with traffic flowing freely, the sheriff's office reported Thursday afternoon.

 



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