Two die in six-vehicle accident
Two people died in a six-vehicle accident late Wednesday on Interstate 70, six miles
west of Marshall, Ill.
The accident occurred at 11:28 p.m. The eastbound lanes of I-70 near Marshall, Ill.,
were closed from 1 to 9:50 a.m. Thursday.
Janelle A. Durk, 15, of Linden, Mich., and Dale A. Headley, 56, of Salem, Ill., were killed
in the accident.
According to Illinois State Police:
n Robert D. Whitney, 47, of Albany was driving a truck when he fell asleep and the
truck hit a guardrail. Whitney’s vehicle stopped in the middle of an I-70 lane, near
n In the chaos that followed, Headley’s truck collided with the rear of Linden, Mich.,
resident Robert J. Durk’s car. Durk’s vehicle, carrying Janelle Durk, left the roadway
and entered a ditch. Headley’s truck then swerved left and collided with a truck
driven by Larry D. Johns, 57, of Greenup, Ill.
n Johns’ vehicle was pushed into the rear of a vehicle driven by Darrell R. Dunlap,
61, of Litchfield, Ohio. Headley’s vehicle swerved right and hit the right side of a
vehicle driven by Thomas E. Ross, 41, of Belle Vista, Ark.
Whitney was issued multiple citations, according to the police report.
Condition reports on the survivors of the accident were not available late Thursday.
Parents push tougher standards for truckers
Fifteen-year-old Michigan girl killed in July accident on Interstate 70
By Arthur Foulkes
TERRE HAUTE — The parents of a Michigan teenager killed tragically last July on
a stretch of Wabash Valley highway are turning their heartbreak into an effort to
improve highway safety.
The parents of 15-year old Janelle Anne Durk of Linden, Mich., have started a
Web site dedicated to telling the story of their daughter’s death and to push for
tougher enforcement of existing truck safety laws.
Janelle Durk was killed after a semitrailer driver fell asleep at the wheel, causing
traffic to stop on eastbound Interstate 70 near Marshall, Ill. Robert Durk had
stopped the family’s car with other traffic when another semi rear-ended his
Janelle was taken to Union Hospital, where she later died.
“I made a promise to my daughter … that her life would not be in vain,” Sherry
Durk writes on the family’s Web site, www.justiceforjanelle.com.
She and her husband, Robert, are lobbying for tougher enforcement of truck
safety laws, such as limits on hours behind the wheel, speed limits, keeping
accurate logs, and checking in at weigh stations.
“We’re not against all truckers,” Robert Durk said, “just the ones who are
breaking the law. We’d like to see more weigh stations opened and log books
checked.” Some truckers keep two sets of log books, he said.
The truck driver whose accident caused traffic to halt on I-70 leading to Janelle’
s death, 47-year-old Robert Whitney of Albany, Ind., had logged 20 hours behind
the wheel, Durk said. Clark County, Ill., prosecutors have charged Whitney in
connection with the accident with two counts of reckless homicide, driving
under the influence of drugs and violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Whitney is presently in custody in the Putnamville Correctional Facility. In 2001,
he was found guilty of driving while intoxicated resulting in death and he was
out on parole from that conviction when last July’s tragedy occurred.
“We don’t understand how he got a driver’s license in the first place, let alone a
[commercial drivers license],” Robert Durk said. Sherry Durk said that the
Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles told her they did not have a record of
Whitney’s DWI conviction until after he received his commercial operator’s
“How can the same state that sentenced this man for killing someone behind the
wheel turn around and … [give] him permission to drive a semi?” Sherry Durk
writes on her Web site.
Whitney’s earliest possible release date is in January 2008, according to the
Indiana Department of Correction Web site.
“Our … task is to get [Whitney] out of Indiana custody and back [to Illinois] to
prosecute him,” writes Clark County, Ill., State’s Attorney Dennis Simonton in an
August 2006 letter to the Durks.
A recent study of nearly 1,000 trucking accidents by the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration found the most common factors leading to truck accidents
include over-the-counter drug use, traveling too fast, unfamiliarity with the
roadway, fatigue and feeling under pressure from motor carriers.
However, the report also found that in accidents involving trucks and at least
one passenger car, trucks were the cause of less than half of the accidents and
driver fatigue was found to be a problem among passenger car drivers twice as
often as for truck drivers. The report, published in March, also found “very little
illegal drug” or alcohol use among truckers, but more of each for passenger-car
The Durks plan to file lawsuits against the employers of both truckers involved
in their daughter’s fatal accident. They also plan to continue to lobby
“We’re planning to go to Washington,” Robert Durk said, adding that many
people he speaks with agree the problem requires tougher action.
“Since we put up the Web site, we’ve heard from all sorts of people,” he said.
“This is a big problem.”
Arthur Foulkes can be contacted at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.