A Neillsville man has been charged with causing a fatal car crash while driving a semi in July 2017.
Roger L. Waltemate, 54, was charged in Clark County Court with one count of second-degree reckless homicide and five counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety. He will return to court Friday.
According to the criminal complaint, the crash occurred near the intersection of U.S. 10 and Meridian Avenue in the town of Grant, near Neillsville, on July 10, 2017. There were a total of four vehicles involved, and “the crash had occurred in an active construction zone with workers and flaggers.”
The criminal complaint indicates that Waltemate crashed his semi into three vehicles in front of him, causing the death of 47-year-old Anthony Phipps of Granton, who was driving a Jeep, which was the last of the three cars waiting at the construction zone. Phipps’ car entered the ditch, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
A 32-year-old woman who was in the lead car, a blue Mercury, said she was stopped in the construction zone for the flagger’s stop sign when her car was hit from behind. She was with her 10-year-old son; they were both wearing seat belts.
“The driver stated that she was sore from hitting the steering wheel and the door, and also that she was 21 weeks pregnant and experiencing stomach pains,” the complaint states. “The child indicated that he was scared but not injured.”
A 67-year-old male driver in a red van also was interviewed. His van was behind the woman in the blue Mercury, and the Jeep was behind him. He didn’t see anything before the collision.
“He said he saw the Jeep in the north ditch as he was hit from behind by the semi, forcing him into the blue car,” the complaint states.
The officer interviewed Waltemate, who said he was aware of the construction zone, as he drives that route to work. He said he was traveling about 55 mph prior to arriving at the construction zone. He claimed he pressed his brakes, but the semi didn’t slow down, and he estimates he hit the Jeep at 40 to 45 mph.
Waltemate consented to a blood draw, which showed no indication of drugs or alcohol in his system. A check of Waltemate’s phone showed he placed a call at 12:17 p.m., perhaps two or three minutes before the crash occurred, and he denied being distracted. However, Waltemate “denied making any calls or sending any text messages while driving” that day.
A reconstruction expert from the Wisconsin State Patrol determined that the speed at the time of the crash was 55 to 61 mph, and “that there was a delayed application of brakes, causing the collision.”
The expert “noted that there were no visible pre-impact tire marks created by the semi,” the complaint states.