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Evidence still awaited in July Antwerp highway tragedy

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ANTWERP - Three months have passed without any charges being filed against a trucker whose alleged inattention caused the deaths of six people in a fiery crash on Route 11 in the town of Antwerp.

The reason, state police investigator Patrick A. Hathaway has said in recent weeks, is that some evidence is still being awaited. He was unavailable for comment Monday, but Jefferson County District Attorney Cindy F. Intschert confirmed she is awaiting that evidence.

In fact, she added, “I have submitted an inquiry” about the status of that evidence.

Mrs. Intschert declined to discuss the nature of the evidence or from what agency or source it should be coming.

Another party in waiting is a Kansas City law firm, Dollar, Burns and Baker, which specializes in trucking accidents, retained by families of people killed in the morning crash of July 19.

Killed were Janet P. Dana, 69, Laurie A. Dana, 42, Caitlyn O. Dana, 14, Lauryn E. Dana, 11, Shannon M. Planty, 14, and Maryann D. Gregory, 59. They were all residents of the North Lawrence and Brushton-Moira area. A survivor, having suffered serious injuries, is Lewis L. Lottie Jr., Nicholville.

Southbound cars and trucks were stopped at a road resurfacing project being conducted by Barrett Paving Materials Inc., Watertown, under contract with the state Department of Transportation. James A. Mills Jr., Myerstown, Pa., also southbound in a tractor-trailer carrying a full load of yogurt, was unable to come to a stop as he approached the line of traffic, setting off a chain reaction that caused two vehicles to burst into flames — a state DOT truck operated by Mr. Lottie and a car occupied by the four Dana family members and Ms. Planty.

Mr. Hathaway on July 24 said that prior to the tragedy, DOT had inspected the warning signs set up by Barrett Paving and assessed that “they conformed to DOT standards.”

Later, on Aug. 17, he specified that driver inattention by Mr. Mills caused the accident. There was no evidence that Mr. Mills was impaired by any substances, he said.

An ad ran in Sunday’s Watertown Daily Times asking that anybody having information about the accident, “including the actions of the drivers or vehicles before the collision, the conditions of the roadway or the traffic back-up that day,” call 288-3937. A call to that number was answered Monday by attorney Jeffrey A. Burns, a partner in the Kansas City firm.

“Until we get a final report, we can’t formulate a final decision” about who will be named as defendants in civil litigation, Mr. Burns said. “We don’t have very much information yet, nothing official from the police yet.”

About the long-awaited evidence, “I’m not in that loop,” he said. “I can’t speculate.”

The newspaper ad brought some results, he said,

“We’ve had some calls,” he said, but he declined to elaborate.

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