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Fatal crash investigation continues

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accidents River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
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River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The National Transportation Safety Board says it will not investigate any further into a weekend freeway crash in Kentucky that killed six Wisconsinites.

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The Kentucky State Police continues its probe into the March 2 accident on I-65, about 50 miles south of Louisville. Officials said a semi-truck driver from Michigan might have been distracted just before his truck rear-ended an SUV that was returning to Wisconsin from a vacation in Florida.

James Gollnow, 62, of Pella in Shawano County was driving the SUV. He and his 62-year-old wife Barbara were killed, along with foster children Soledad Smith, 8; Gabriel Zumig, 10; family friend Marion Champnise, 92; and Sarina Gollnow, 18. Two foster teenagers in the SUV were taken to hospitals in Louisville and Lexington with injuries that included burns and fractures.

Investigators said the trucker, 47-year-old Ibrahim Fetic of Troy, Mich., was uninjured and had a blood sample taken - and police were checking his driving records. The Kentucky State Patrol said the driver was apparently distracted just before the crash.

The company that owns the semi-truck, Highway Star Incorporated of Oak Park, Mich., shows 17 violations in the past two years. The citations include speeding, following too closely, unsafe lane changes, and not wearing seat belts. Based on that record, the federal government had advised states to more closely inspect the company's vehicles.

The U.S. Motor Carrier Safety Administration still gave Highway Star an overall satisfactory rating, due to its overall performance in the two years ending yesterday. Duane DeBruyne of the federal safety agency says the warnings are meant to notify states of potential problems to check on - but they don't have to follow up on them.

Funeral director Bob Didier of Marion said the Gollnows were originally from Wisconsin before they moved to Tennessee and came back. He said they had long cared for foster children.

About 15 minutes after the fatal crash, a four-vehicle wreck occurred in the opposite lanes of the freeway - apparently caused by people gawking at the crash scene.

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