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Road washout causes 2 crashes, 3 deaths in Clark County

A washed out road in Clark County led to the deaths of a Milwaukee couple and a young Thorp woman. The fatal car accidents occurred on a Thursday morning sometime before 1:30 a.m., when a passing motorist discovered two vehicles and the victims piled in a deep ditch not far from Neillsville.

The couple, a 56-year-old man and his 57-year-old wife, was travelling northbound in a pickup truck on rain-drenched County Highway M. The National Weather Service reported up to three inches of rain the evening before the motor vehicle accident.

The roadway above Neillsville had been pounded by wet weather for a week.

When Clark County sheriff's deputies arrived at the accident scene, they found 50 feet of the road washed away and a ditch at least a dozen feet deep. Inside the ditch were two wrecked vehicles and three bodies.

Investigators say the couple's vehicle apparently crashed first. A SUV, driven by a 24-year-old Thorp woman, was on top of the couple's truck.

Deputies are trying to determine when the accidents occurred and if the drivers' visibility was hampered by rain.

Family members said the long-married couple was en route to a family cottage in Greenwood, used as a getaway for hunting and fishing several times a year. The last trip was in preparation for the weekend wedding of a friend. The couple left behind several adult children and eight grandchildren.

Who is responsible when roads are damaged and dangerous? Investigators will certainly want to know if Clark County officials had any knowledge of the washed out road before the accidents took place.

Initial reports said nothing about posted or flashing warnings about the washout along the rural route.

An inquiry might be made on the history of any weather-related problems along the county highway. Was the area often flooded? Had any other similar washouts occurred in past bad weather? Did anyone know the washout was there before the fatal accidents?

Source:, "Milwaukee couple killed in crash where rain washed away road," June 21, 2012

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