October 21, 2014

Charges filed against semi driver in accident on I-35

Charges have been filed against the motorist who forced the closure of an interstate in central Iowa Tuesday. The four-vehicle crash shut down Interstate 35 near West Des Moines for nearly 9 hours. Police say they’ve charged the semi driver from California who caused the accident with failure to maintain control.

The semi crashed through construction barriers, overturned, and spilled diesel fuel across the interstate. Another semi and two other vehicles were impacted and three people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.


Lawyer for Brandon Ellingson’s family finds testimony at Missouri hearing ‘insulting’

A Missouri House Committee held its first hearing Wednesday to examine the merger of the state’s Water Patrol with its Highway Patrol. The superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol told the committee with the potential for civil lawsuits, he would not answer questions about the drowning of a Clive,Iowa man while in Water Patrol custody.

Craig Ellingson, the father of 20-year-old drowning victim Brandon Ellingson, was at the hearing in Missouri along with his attorney Matthew Boles. Boles says what he and his client heard was “insulting.” “Going through the litany of success stories that the merger has brought about with manpower, training, and equipment and highlighted floods and the Ferguson civil unrest, and conveniently jumped over the May 31st drowning of Brandon Ellingson,” Boles says.

Some of the committee members have said it isn’t their place to investigate the drowning of Ellingson while in Water Patrol custody, but the Boles says there is more to measuring success than whether the merger saved money. “The cost of the loss of Brandon Ellingson’s life isn’t measured in dollars an cents,” according to Boles. “And if the rush to get offices on the lake and the rush to make sure that they have fulfilled the obligations of the merger have resulted in public safety concerns — such as the death of Brandon — this has been a failure.”

Boles took particular exception to the Highway Patrol superintendent’s description of what were called the successes of that merger, including specific water rescue incidents and response to disasters. “I thought it was somewhat insulting,” Boles says.

Boles says it doesn’t matter if the Highway Patrol members testifying don’t talk about that drowning during hearings on the merger. He says the information will come out. “All of the documents that they’re referencing are going to be discoverable. We are going to get an opportunity to depose all of these people. And we have a very, very good picture, based on eyewitness testimony, about what happened at the time of Brandon’s death,” Bole says.

Boles expects a civil case against the Patrol and the State of Missouri will be filed before the committee completes its work at the end of the year, and his client has also requested a federal investigation.

Thanks to Mike Lear of the Missourinet for this story.


Sioux Central homecoming activities delayed after 2 students killed

Homecoming activities at a northwest Iowa high school have been postponed in the wake of a deadly car crash. School officials at Sioux Central have moved homecoming activities, originally planned to begin this Friday, to the week of October 13-17.

The decision comes after an accident this week that claimed the lives of 17-year-old Caleb Smith of Sioux Rapids and 16-year-old Lexi Rydstrom of Marathon. Smith’s car struck a pickup head on east of Storm Lake. Four others were injured.

Smith and Rydstrom were both students at Sioux Central High School in Sioux Rapids.

(Reporting by Ryan Long, KICD, Spencer)

Missouri Highway Patrol superintendent declines comment on Iowa man’s death (video)

Corporal Ron Replogle

Corporal Ron Replogle

The superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol declined to comment today on the death of an Iowa man who drowned after being arrested by the Water Patrol on the Lake of the Ozarks in May. Corporal Ron Replogle testified during a hearing before a Missouri House Committee on the merger of the state’s Water Patrol into the Highway Patrol.

“Based on the advice of legal counsel and due to probable pending civil litigations, we will not take questions today or make statements concerning the May 31st 2014 drowning death of Brandon Ellingson,” Replogle says. Committee members and its chairwoman, Representative Diane Franklin, had said before the hearing that the committee would not be investigating the Ellingson drowning, but some questions would regard training of troopers following the merger.

The Water Patrol trooper who had the 20 year-old Ellingson of Clive was in custody when he drowned told a coroner’s inquest that he felt he hadn’t received enough training. Ellingson was placed in the trooper’s boat, handcuffed, and

Craig Ellingson at Missouri hearing.

Craig Ellingson at Missouri hearing.

then had a life jacket put on him. The life jacket wasn’t properly fastened and it fell of when the the boat hit a wave and Ellingson fell into the water. Efforts to pull Ellingson from the water failed.

An inquest jury ruled the drowning was an accident and a Missouri special prosecutor announced no charges would be filed against the state trooper. Ellingson’s father Craig is at the hearing today and Replogle says he spoke to him.

“I had the opportunity to talk with Craig Ellingson just before this hearing started to offer my condolences, and I certainly want to do that publicly too for the Ellingson family,” Replogle said. “They have been in my constant thoughts and prayers since this incident and I do offer my and the agency’s condolences on the loss of their son.”

It is not clear whether Craig Ellingson will address the committee. Chairwoman Diane Franklin had previously said she had not asked Ellingson’s family to speak to the committee.

Thanks to Mike Lear of the Missourinet for contributing to this story.




Winnebago County Supervisor found dead in Buffalo Center home

Authorities in north-central Iowa say Winnebago County Supervisor Willie Wubben was found dead Tuesday in his home in Buffalo Center. Sheriff Dave Peterson says the medical examiner determined that the 66-year-old Wubben died from natural causes.

Wubben was a Democrat who had been the District Three supervisor for the last six years. County officials were concerned after Wubben didn’t show up for yesterday’s meeting of the supervisors. After attempts to call him, Buffalo Center police did a check at his home and found Wubben had died.

Wubben’s name will remain on the November ballot as he did not run in the June primary but later filed for re-election as an independent candidate. If Wubben wins the election in November, a county panel would select a replacement, but county residents could also file a petition to ask for a special election.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)


Two dead after Davenport accident

A Davenport traffic accident has taken two lives. It happened a little after 2 Sunday morning at a central city intersection. Police say a car driven by 24-year-old Kai Miller of Davenport broadsided another car at the intersection, killing the driver instantly. One passenger in the car Miller struck died later at a hospital and another was seriously hurt.

Names have not yet been released. Police are investigating. But based on physical evidence from the scene and multiple witness statements, they say Miller’ s excessive speed and alcohol consumption are believed to be the main contributing factors to the crash.

Miller was treated at a hospital and released. He is in jail, charged with homicide by vehicle, serious injury by vehicle and first offense operating while intoxicated.

(Reporting by Phil Roberts, Davenport)


Weekend air travel in Iowa disrupted by incident in Illinois

The weekend travel plans of many Iowans were sidetracked by a fire in Aurora, Illinois at an air traffic control center. Sioux Gateway Airport director, Curt Miller, says things first started backing up there when a Friday flight to Chicago was canceled at 9:30 in the morning.

“Up until then it had just been delayed — had a couple of different delays. The last one was delayed until noon and then ti was delayed indefinitely,” Miller says. More than 2,000 flights out of Chicago were canceled Friday and over 700 more on Saturday due to the fire that authorities say was deliberately set at the traffic control facility by a man who later attempted suicide.

“That center controls a lot of the region’s airspace, it’s part of the air traffic control system. So they stopped all of the flights going in an out of Chicago in that flight area,” Miller says. Those who had flights to Chicago out of Sioux City or any other Iowa airport had to find an alternative to get to their destination. The Sunday night flight from Chicago to Sioux Gateway was 36 minutes late.

(Reporting by, Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)