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Hudson (WQOW) - We now know what happened in the moments before an SUV crashed into the back of a semi killing three New Richmond teens. The
state patrol says it was a case of distracted driving.
Investigators say the boys were trying to get the attention of a female
driver who had passed them on I-94 near Hudson. They started to look for
paper to make a sign with their phone number on it to show to her.
investigation shows a back-seat passenger took off his seat belt to look
for paper and the driver was looking in the center console when he
hit the back of the stopped semi.
Investigators say there was no
indication he applied the brakes, which means he hit the semi at around
Wisconsin State Patrol Commander Jeff Frenette calls it
"a tragic chain of events." Frenette says driving is a responsibility,
and that reaching for something, using a cell phone, turning a radio
dial, eating or talking can cause a crash that can forever change your
life or those around you.
St. Croix Co. (Press Release) - On Monday, July 30, 2012, a vehicle driven by 17-year-old Zachary D. Zajec, from New Richmond, Wis., rear-ended a semi tractor trailer unit that was stopped in heavy traffic on eastbound I-94 near Hudson. Zajec died on Aug. 6 from injuries he received in the crash. His passengers, also from New Richmond, 17-year-old Joshua J. Goodrich and 16-year-old Jordan Johnson, were killed at the scene. The fourth passenger, 17-year-old Thomas Wanless received minor injuries. Other than Johnson, all the other occupants were wearing safety belts. The operator of the semi was not injured.
The Wisconsin State Patrol has completed most aspects of the crash investigation and has determined, from physical evidence and witness and survivor accounts that distracted driving was a significant contributing factor in the cause of the crash. According to witnesses, the teens, who were returning to New Richmond from Woodbury, Minnesota, were trying to get the attention of another driver who had passed them. In an attempt to find paper, the rear seat passenger Jordan Johnson unfastened his seatbelt while at the same time the driver searched in the center console. These distracted actions resulted in the Durango striking the rear of the stopped semitrailer at highway speed.
According to the State Patrol Commander Jeffrey Frenette, the crash was a tragic chain of events that resulted in the untimely deaths of three young teenagers. Driving a motor vehicle is a responsibility. When a driver gets behind the wheel they must be engaged in the safe operation of that vehicle 100% of the time. Frenette added that distracted driving such as reaching for something, using a cellphone, turning the dial of a radio, eating, talking or anything that robs your attention can be a cause a crash that can forever change your life or those around you.
To prevent additional crashes such as this one, the State Patrol reminds all motorists to:
Keep a safe following distance in heavy or light traffic to allow you the ability to stop in time and avoid a crash.
Wear seatbelts at all times.
Be aware of changing conditions in and around construction zone.
Watch your speed in a construction zone. The speed limit is reduced for the safety of motorists and the people working at the site.
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