Ryan Murch, Shawn Thurston, Alexis Hudson, David Celmer Killed in Truck Accident in Vienna, WI
Vienna, WI -- January 6, 2022, Ryan Murch, Shawn Thurston, Alexis Hudson, and David Celmer were killed in a collision between a van and two semi-trucks in Dane County.
Authorities say the incident happened around 10:15 p.m. on southbound Interstate 39/90/94. Preliminary investigation suggests all four victims were traveling in a Chevrolet Uplander van when they pulled over to assist with another vehicle that was disabled on the right shoulder. As driver Alexis Hudson pulled the van back onto the roadway, it was struck by two passing semi-trucks.
Hudson, Celmer, Thurston, and Murch, all riding in the van, suffered fatal injuries in the crash. Both truck drivers, later identified as Mitchell Zimmerman and Dwayne Hajek, were unhurt.
The crash remains under investigation. It is unknown whether any charges are pending.
No further information is currently available.
Commentary on Ryan Murch, Shawn Thurston, Alexis Hudson, David Celmer Accident in Vienna
One mistake I see made after commercial truck crashes like this is the belief that no immediate criminal charges against a truck driver means they aren't liable for anyone's injuries. While I understand how that connection might be made, it's actually not true. Criminal and civil law are functionally separate, as are the consequences for violating them. While criminal charges sometimes serve as evidence when establishing a driver's wrongdoing, even if any had been assigned the company would be free to dispute any allegations that they're responsible for the damages suffered by the victims. I've seen them blame bad weather, road conditions or design, and in many cases even the victims themselves rather than accept liability.
Consider the situation in Wisconsin: It seems reasonable to think that the semi-trucks hitting the van caused the victims' tragic injuries, but the companies behind those trucks might dispute that. They could argue it was actually the van pulling into the roadway at a bad time or without signaling that was the proximate cause of the damages. If that seems cold-hearted I agree, but I've seen trucking companies do and say worse in the name of protecting themselves.
The only way to ensure that the right party is held accountable for what occurred is to conduct a careful and thorough investigation of the crash, identifying all the contributing elements and determining the specific timing of events. Exactly how long was the van on the shoulder with the disabled car before the trucks approached? Were the van's hazard lights on as it was stopped on the shoulder? Did the driver signal her intent to re-enter the road? If so, how long was her signal active before she began to merge? Were both truck drivers paying proper attention to the road? If not, why not? Should they reasonably have noticed the van ahead with enough time and space to slow, steer clear, or otherwise react? What is lighting like in that area at night?
Those are just a few of the questions that will need concrete answers, backed up by plenty of evidence. With the right allies and know-how on one's side, the right parties can be held properly accountable for the roles they played in the victims' tragic and irreversible damage. It seems only right to seek both answers and justice after several people lost their lives. At the very least, their loved ones deserve to know that every effort was made to find answers about what happened.