The widow of an Illinois State Trooper who was killed when he was hit by a semi filed a wrongful death suit on Wednesday against a trucking company and the truck's driver.
Trooper Kyle Deatherage was killed on Nov. 26 while he was executing a traffic stop in Interstate 55 near Litchfield. Johnny B. Felton was driving a tractor-trailer for DOT Foods when he hit Deatherage, killing him.
The suit was filed on behalf of Kyle Deatherage's widow, Sarah, in Madison County, where Deatherage lived, by Swansea attorney Thomas Q. Keefe.
The suit alleges DOT Foods acted improperly because it allowed Felton to drive a truck when he was an "imminent danger to the public." The suit further alleges that Felton operated a truck when he knew he was "medically unfit to do so."
Jim Tracy, DOT Foods Inc.'s corporate counsel and son of the founder Robert Tracy, said on Wednesday afternoon that he had not yet seen the suit and did not want to comment until he reviewed the complaint.
Felton suffered an unknown medical malady that may have caused him to black out, losing control of his truck that struck Deatherage, who was on the shoulder of the highway, Keefe said.
DOT Foods grew from a Mount Sterling, Ill. family-owned transportation company founded in 1960 into the country's largest food redistributor with annual sales reaching more than $3 billion.
And that takes cross-country truck drivers with commercial drivers' licenses, Keefe said.
"They are seeking drivers all the time," Keefe said. "They are always looking for someone to drive their trucks."
Keefe asserts that the trucking companies can't keep up with the demand for drivers and ensuring drivers are healthy would cost too much, leaving unsafe drivers in control of tractor-trailers.
Deatherage, 32, was a former Madison County Sheriff's deputy who joined the Illinois State Police on May 31, 2009. He was assigned to Litchfield as a motorcycle officer. He is survived by his wife and their two small children, Kaylee and Camden.
"Sadly, that's what caused this kid's death," Keefe said.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2570.