Grieving parents speak in nation's capital

By: Sharon Stone, Staff Reporter





A group of 12 youth and six adults traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Sorrow to Strength truck safety conference in March in memory of Janelle Durk.

According to Janelle's father, Robert Durk, the trip went without a hitch and they exceeded their goal of taking 10 local kids with them.

"It was an incredible trip and the kids made such a difference," said Robert Durk. "It was a lifetime experience."

Durk said on behalf of everyone that made the trip, he wanted to say thank you to the community for all of its support. "We appreciate everything everyone did. "We raised about $5,000 in the Fenton,
Linden and Byron area."

While there, the group met senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin and congressmen Dale Kildee and Mike Rogers.

Durk said he was amazed that the politicians allowed them into their offices and even allowed them to videotape their visits. The group pled for truck safety, especially a law that would require trucks to have onboard recording devices (black box) and to require trucks coming in from
Mexico to have to comply with the same standards as U.S. trucks.

Janelle Ann, a 15-year-old
Linden High School student, was the only child of Robert and Sherry Durk. Janelle's life ended when her family's automobile was struck in a semi truck crash on Interstate 70 in Illinois on July 6, 2006.

According to
Illinois police, a truck driver who was traveling in front of the Durks' vehicle had fallen asleep and crashed into a guard rail. While the Durks and other motorists were stopped for that crash, their vehicle was rear-ended by another semi truck. In addition to Janelle, the driver of the second truck also died.

Following Janelle's death, her parents have been on a mission to not have their daughter's life be in vain and to urge lawmakers to push for truck safety legislation.

The Durks have said previously that everyone has had a truck horror story and they want to change that.

As part of a four-day "Sorrow to Strength" conference, truck crash victims who are members of the Truck Safety Coalition, which is the umbrella group for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), joined with representatives of

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Public Citizen to call on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to make changes.

During the conference the Durks spoke about their daughter. They told the assembled group how their daughter was one month shy of her 16th birthday at the time of the fatal crash and that she was their only child. They also told of their outrage as they observed truck drivers "flying past us almost as if we were standing still.

"They had to have been going at least 85 miles an hour."

The Durks said their daughter's death was not caused by just one truck driver, but two, when they were rear-ended in stopped traffic. "In the backseat, Janelle sat bleeding and unconscious, and still buckled in her seatbelt. She passed away later that night at a hospital in
Terre Haute, Ind."

The Durks spoke of how these senseless deaths and injuries are the result of truck drivers who are pushed to the limit by the companies they work for.

"It is time for our federal government to step up to its neglected responsibility to lead on this nationwide public health and safety crisis."

In their speech, the Durks said they are working hard to turn their sorrow into something positive to honor Janelle. "We will not go quietly.

"We want our daughter's life and spirit to be a living tribute to the power of people working together, dedicated to the very basic principle of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - free of the threat of violence on our highways."

ŠTri-County Times 2007

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