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TMCNet:  Suit filed in crash deaths of Bethalto couple

[November 15, 2012]

Suit filed in crash deaths of Bethalto couple

EDWARDSVILLE, Nov 15, 2012 (The Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The estate of a Bethalto couple killed in a head-on traffic crash on the Berm Highway in June has filed wrongful death lawsuits against two other drivers and an insurance company that the estate claims destroyed evidence in the case.

Jeffrey McCormick, on behalf of Leonard M. McCormick, 80, and Shirley McCormick, 78, claims one driver, Elvanus Watts, of Wood River, entered the oncoming lane of the Berm Highway (Illinois Route 143/River Heritage Parkway) after the other driver, Kodijah Bledsoe, of Fairview Heights, struck the rear of the Watts vehicle.

Besides Watts and Bledsoe, the suit also names Affirmative Insurance Services as defendants.

The suit filed in Madison County Circuit Court claims the plaintiffs have been unable to obtain information about the crash from Affirmative, the company that insured Bledsoe. Information such as seat belt use, physical evidence from the vehicle and at what point the brakes were applied could have been obtained from the vehicle, the suit claims.

Much information could have been obtained from a crash data record, the suit claims.

However, the insurance company has admitted to destroying the vehicle and disposing of it, the suit alleges.

The company had a duty to maintain the information and the automobile and its parts, because the insurer knew or should have known that they were material evidence in an accident that resulted in two deaths, the suit alleges.

Madison County Coroner Stephen P. Nonn said Leonard McCormick, was driving a van east June 15 on the Berm Highway, officially designated Illinois Route 143 or the River Heritage Parkway, near Wood River Creek.

At the same time, Watts, the driver of a pickup truck, was heading west on Route 143 and attempting to turn left into a parking area on the south side of the highway, Nonn said. He said the driver of a Honda CRV, Bledsoe, then struck the rear of the pickup truck, causing it to travel into the path of the van driven by Leonard McCormick. The truck and McCormick's van collided head-on in the eastbound lanes of Route 143.

Leonard McCormick was pronounced dead at the scene. Shirley McCormick, a passenger in the van, was airlifted from the scene and taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where she later was pronounced dead.

Police said the driver of the pickup truck had been stopped in the westbound lanes to make a left turn across Route 143 to access a parking lot used by local fishermen on the levee side of the highway. Although there was a break in the median, there was no turn lane, and the truck would have been in the fast lane.

The Illinois Department of Transportation later installed bright yellow posts along the break, preventing motorists from turning across oncoming traffic at that point.

The suit claims Watts stopped or nearly stopped at the break. The highway is four lanes with a 55 mph speed limit.

The suit claims Watts stopped in the left lane in a 55 mph zone, and failed to proceed to the stoplight less than a mile away, where a left turn could be made, among other allegations.

The suit claims Bledsoe failed to avoid Watts' vehicle, failed to change lanes, failed to reduce speed to avoid an accident, failed to drive in the right-hand lane, followed too closely and failed to maintain control of her vehicle.

The suit is asking for at least $50,000 in damages on each of six counts for such costs as medical, loss of companionship and so forth. The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Mike Stewart of Alton. ___ (c)2012 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.) Visit The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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