MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin’s state Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley was involved in a fatal car crash Friday that left a mother and her 5-year-old daughter dead.
Bewley, a Democrat who represents a district that covers the northwestern part of the state, pulled into the path of a car driven by 27-year-old Alyssa Ortman of Pennsylvania, according to police in Ashland, Wisconsin. When Ortman’s car collided with Bewley’s, it spun and was hit by another vehicle driven by 45-year-old Jodi Munson.
Ortman’s 5-year-old daughter was pronounced dead at the crash scene. Ortman was transported to a nearby hospital where she later died, according to police.
“This is a heartbreaking event for the community. Our thoughts and prayers are focused on the individuals involved, their families and their loved ones,” a statement released by Bewley’s office said. “Senator Bewley, who was not seriously injured in the accident, wants to thank all the dedicated law enforcement and emergency medical personnel who helped in the aftermath of the accident.”
Ben Baker, a reporting intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, was on the phone with Bewley at the time of the crash on Friday afternoon for an interview he had arranged with her staff about this fall’s elections for the Legislature.
Shortly after the interview began, Bewley told Baker she had cataract eye surgery the day before. Minutes later, she stopped talking mid-sentence and the call went silent. When Baker asked Bewley if she was still on the line, she sounded concerned. When Baker asked if she was OK, she said, “Yeah, I’m OK. This is not a good accident.”
Ashland Police Chief Bill Hagstrom told the Ashland Daily Press on Monday he has not yet determined whether charges will be filed against one of the drivers.
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“We’ll be sitting down with them and going over everything as far as determining how it all actually happened,” Hagstrom told the newspaper. “Then we’ll forward everything to the district attorney for their review because it was a fatal accident.”
Molly Beck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.