- 2004 has been bad year for fatal wrecks, Sheriff's Department reports
Congested traffic from a yard sale may have contributed to the two- vehicle wreck on U.S. 40 about noon Friday that claimed the life of three-year-old Katana Steelman.
According to the police report and witness accounts, Katana, her mother, Nikolle Steelman, 23, and Nikolle's boyfriend, Dale Beverly, 45, all of Seelyville, had been shopping at a yard sale on U.S. 40 just east of the Staunton flasher light.
Beverly was driving a 1990s model red Chevrolet Corsica. After completing shopping at the yard sale, Beverly backed out onto the eastbound driving lane of U.S. 40 and began driving east.
Four other vehicles were also eastbound in the driving lane in that area: a white Cadillac, a white van, a gray car and a truck. According to the police report, the driver of the truck said the Cadillac quickly went into the passing lane. The van hit the Corsica, twisting it around and sending debris in all directions. The gray car swerved into the passing land and kept going. The truck ran into the median where the driver was able to regain control, got back on the roadway and was about to come to rest on the south side of the eastbound shoulder of U.S. 40.
Police speculate that Beverly was trying to get into the passing lane to access a cross over so he could turn back west. Since the Cadillac was there, he may have slowed to a near stop waiting to make a left turn after the Cadillac passed.
After the crash, rescue workers arrived quickly and immediately began extrication efforts starting with Katana, who appeared to be properly secured in a child restraint in the back seat.
Katana was rushed to St. Vincent Clay Hospital. Also an Air Evac helicopter was dispatched to St. Vincent Clay to transport the child to Indianapolis. Medical personnel vigorously treated Katana in the ambulance all the way to the hospital. But despite the best efforts of the medical staff involved, Katana's injuries were too severe and she was pronounced dead at St. Vincent Clay Hospital of head injuries.
Nikolle Steelman and Beverly were freed from the vehicle and transported to St. Vincent Clay where they were treated and later released.
The driver of the white van, Darren White, 43, Carbon, was checked by medical personnel on the scene but refused further treatment.
When a license check was run on Beverly it was discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest in Parke County for OVWI, BAC .15 or more and Public intoxication. Beverly was arrested Saturday. He is currently being detained in the Parke County jail awaiting an initial hearing.
An Indiana State Police Accident Reconstructionist is still working on the accident investigation. While the cause is not yet known, it is believed that speed was not a factor. Investigating officers Det. Rob Gambill and Dep. Jason Frazier think the severe damage to the Corsica may have been partly due to the difference in bumper heights of the vehicles involved and that the van was a sturdier vehicle.
Assisting the Clay County Sheriff's Department with the accident were Brazil City Police, Indiana State Police, Posey Twp. Fire Department, Clay County Search and Rescue and Athens Ambulance.
There appears to be a higher than usual number of serious injury accidents and traffic fatalities in Clay County this year. Sgt. Gambill said for 2004 there has already been seven fatalities and an eighth accident on the Vigo Co. side which claimed the life of a Clay Co. resident. In 2003 and 2004 there were six traffic fatalities each year. Gambill could offer no reasons for the increased number of fatalities.