BLOOMINGTON — The wife of a man killed in a December crash involving a Unit 5 school bus and a semitrailer truck has filed a lawsuit against the trucking firm and the truck driver's estate.
Kathleen Crabtree, wife of Charles Crabtree, a volunteer with the Normal West girls' freshman basketball team, is seeking more than $50,000 from Jason Farrell and his Clinton, Iowa trucking company, Jason Farrell Trucking. The lawsuit was filed Jan. 4.
Crabtree, 72, was with the team as it was returning from a game in Champaign on Dec. 5.
The company employed Ryan Hute, the driver of the truck, that was traveling the wrong way on Interstate 74 about two miles east of Bloomington; he also was killed in the head-on collision.
The lawsuit, filed in McLean County Circuit Court, accuses Hute of several negligent acts, including failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision and failure to realize he was driving the wrong way on the interstate.
An allegation that Hute failed to obey a traffic control device relates to the contention in the lawsuit that the truck driver mistakenly drove onto I-74 from an exit ramp, said Bloomington lawyer James Ginzkey, the attorney for Kathleen Crabtree.
"Our strong suspicion is that he entered the interstate on an exit ramp," Ginzkey said Monday morning.
Illinois State Police have not released its report with details of the crash.
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The owner of the trucking firm could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Bloomington lawyer McLean Arnold is handling the lawsuit on behalf of Hute, who is named in the lawsuit in his capacity as the driver of the semi. Hute's estate is not being sued, nor can Crabtree's widow obtain money from the driver's family. The 34-year-old driver of Delmar, Iowa, left behind a wife and three young sons.
According to Ginzky, Kathleen Crabtree intends to establish a scholarship at Normal West with money from any settlement she may receive from the lawsuit.
Seriously injured in the crash were bus driver Mark Kuhn and assistant coach Steve Price. Eight players were transported to Twin City hospitals where they were treated and released.
Corey Ostling, West’s varsity girls’ coach, said last week that freshman girls' coach Price is home recovering from his injuries while Kuhn is or will be released soon.
A June 28 case management hearing is scheduled in the lawsuit.
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