Wittenberg, WI Semi Truck And Auto Crash, Nov 1998



Wittenberg, Wis. (AP) - Five men on their way to a Halloween party were killed when a semitrailer tractor broadsided a car traveling on the wrong side of a state highway, splitting the car in two, authorities said Sunday.
In the past month, 11 people have died in four separate crashes on Wisconsin 29 in highway construction areas near Wittenberg.
The Shawano County Sheriff's Department identified the dead in Saturday's crash as the car's driver, JUSTIN HERMANN, 19, of Wausau; and passengers SHAUN BUSSMAN, 20, of Ringle; JUSTIN FERGE, 19, of Schofield; JASON GARDNER, 19, of Mosinee and JEFFREY LAFFIN, 18, of Aniwa.
FERGE'S mother, Janet Ferge, said all the victims except for HERMANN met while they were students at D.C. Everest High School in Schofield.
The car was traveling east on Wisconsin 29 in the town of Wittenberg about 9:15 p.m. Saturday while the truck was coming toward it. The highway alternates between two lanes and four lanes, authorities said.
The driver tried to swerve back into the right lane, but HERMANN lost control and slid sideways into the truck, the sheriff's department said.
"It looks like the boys got confused as to being on a two-lane highway or a four-lane highway," Shawano County Coroner Roger Lenzner said.
The crash happened just a few miles from where four Milwaukee area women were killed Oct. 14 in a collision with a semitrailer truck.
The driver of the semi took his eyes off the road and rear-ended the women's car as they waited to turn into a Wittenberg meat store along the highway.
On Sept. 29, a highway construction worker was killed by an erratic driver on Wisconsin 29 about 1/2 mile west of Maple Avenue in the town of Richmond. On Oct. 1, a Green Bay man was killed at Wisconsin 29 and Sycamore Street after he lost control of his vehicle while trying to pass another.
The five men in Saturday's crash died instantly from massive head and internal injuries, Lenzner said. The truck's driver was not hurt. The men in the car were on their way to a Halloween party near Marion, he said.
The crash happened in front of Yvonne Watter's house. "My granddaughter heard a noise, but we didn't pay any attention," she said.
"We didn't really notice much at first until we saw all the flashing lights and heard all the talking," she said.
Authorities did not know if alcohol was a factor in the crash, Lenzner said.

Green Bay Press-Gazette Wisconsin 1998-11-02