New Haven, IL Single Auto Crash, Dec 1995
SIX FROM ILLINOIS KILLED IN HIGHWAY CRASH.
New Haven, Ill. (AP) - Six young people from the same area in rural southeastern Illinois died together when their car careened off a lonely highway and crashed through trees along a steep, wooded embankment.
"They were our neighbors, they were our friends, they were our friends' kids," said White County Coroner Carl McVey, who wept while describing the crash Thursday afternoon, just hours after the wreckage was discovered.
"It will be a very, very difficult situation for this community."
The victims, three men and three women, were from Carmi; five were aged 18 and one was 20. One was a student at Carmi-White County High School and the others were graduates of the school of about 450 students.
Alcohol was found in the car, a 1995 Mazda sedan, but State Police said they were uncertain whether it played a role in the crash, discovered about 7 a.m. Thursday by a passing motorist on Illinois 141.
Authorities said the pavement was dry and there was no fog overnight.
State Police were unsure whether the accident happened late Wednesday or early Thursday, but they pieced together a description of the crash based on the devastation at the scene.
The westbound car went into a broadside slide and left the highway. It traveled about 40 feet down the embankment, ripping apart several large trees before landing in a plowed field. The car's roof was caved in, and the trunk was smashed up to the back seat.
It was a "very, very violent accident," said State Police Lt. Steve Crow.
Four of the occupants were thrown from the vehicle and all six probably died quickly, McVey said. Authorities believe the victims weren't wearing seat belts.
McVey, who also works at the White County Hospital, was able to identify some of the victims himself.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "Many of these young people, or some of them, I was there when they were born."
Crow speculated that the victims may have been returning from a night out in Evansville, Ind., the nearest big city.
Police identified the victims as:
JAMES TRENT WALSH, 18;
JEREMY WOOLSEY, 18;
JASON LEE KUYKENDALL, 18;
JAMIE MILLS, 18;
JERRI MICHELLE FRENCH, 18;
KELLI CUMMINS, 20.
The crash site is two miles west of the Wabash Memorial Bridge, and about three miles east of the tiny community of New Haven, in a sparsely populated bottomlands area a few miles from the Indiana border.
A tool booth supervisor said a passing motorist saw the wrecked car in a field near the Wabash River and told him about it. The supervisor then contacted police.
The field was so hard to reach that authorities had to use four-wheel-drive vehicles to remove the bodies.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Missouri 1995-12-29