Janesville68.5°

Family still seeks answers

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GINA R. HEINE
January 31, 2008
— The parents of an Evansville teen who died in an April police chase say they still are seeking the truth about their son’s death.

Lawrence and Tamera Wourms each filed an identical notice of injury and claim with the state regarding the accident reconstruction of the crash that killed their son, Dane A. Wourms, 16.


Dane, who was a sophomore at Evansville High School, suffered massive head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene early in the morning of April 22 after his car went off East Main Street near County M.


The state sent the family a letter denying their notice, Lawrence Wourms said. A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment.


The notice states Wisconsin State Patrol troopers Ryan Zukowski, William Ryan, Brandon Ferrell and Todd Weinberger prepared the report with photographs of the accident scene, an evidence report, several written reports, an original and an amended accident report and forensic mapping.


The Wourms allege the troopers “negligently failed to discover and/or consider information that was available to them and that was relevant to determining the cause or causes of my son’s death.”


The notice states:


As a result of the negligence of the troopers, “I have been deprived of a fair opportunity to investigate and pursue my wrongful death claims against the city of Evansville and it’s employees and against Rock County and its employees, and I have been forced to expend thousands of dollars of my own money to investigate those claims, which expenditures would not have been necessary.”


Lawrence Wourms said his family hired a private accident reconstruction expert to help answer questions that he said the State Patrol’s report lacks.


Wourms said the expert found marks on the bumper of the car Dane was driving that appear to match the bolts on a license plate holder of a vehicle such as the squad car that was pursuing Dane.


But authorities aren’t willing to examine the evidence for what it really is, Wourms said, and the family isn’t sure what their next step will be.


“This is not easy for us to (keep pursuing the case),” he said. “It’s very painful for us to do every time we have to talk to someone.”


The accident reconstruction report evaluated damage on both vehicles and stated the squad car did not cause the damage on Dane’s vehicle and that physical evidence shows that the officer did not ram into Dane’s car and cause the crash.


Investigators concluded Dane’s car was going around 75 mph on the 25 mph street just before the crash. Dane’s blood alcohol level was 0.175—more than twice the legal limit to drive, and he was not wearing a seatbelt, according to reports. Dane did not have a valid driver’s license at the time.


The Evansville Police Commission in July dismissed a complaint filed by Dane’s sister, Lacy, who alleged that police officer Scott Fields violated policies during the pursuit.


The police commission listened to nearly four hours of testimony in a hearing before unanimously dismissing the complaint, ruling Fields did not violate policies or lie about the events.



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