Metro-East News

Wrong-way driver in double-fatal crash had 4 prior DUI arrests

Double-fatal crash on Illinois 15 in Belleville

The two vehicles involved in Saturday's double-fatal, head-on collision: a 2009 GMC Sierra pickup which crashed into the 2017 Kia Forte, killing both men in the car.
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The two vehicles involved in Saturday's double-fatal, head-on collision: a 2009 GMC Sierra pickup which crashed into the 2017 Kia Forte, killing both men in the car.

A man who was driving the wrong way in a crash that killed two people early Saturday had four prior arrests for driving under the influence, according to court records.

Belleville police said the crash on a four-lane section of Illinois 15 left two men dead early Saturday morning.

Police were called regarding a wrong-way driver in the area of Illinois 15 and Allsup Place about 12:45 a.m. Saturday, according to Master Sgt. Todd Keilbach. While officers were heading to the call, they received another call that the vehicle crashed head-on with another vehicle, Keilbach said.

When officers arrived, they found a gray 2009 GMC Sierra pickup had crashed with a silver 2017 Kia Forte.

The driver of the pickup, 54-year-old Kevin G. Helfrich, was flown to a St. Louis hospital.

Both occupants of the Forte — a 37-year-old male, who was driving, and his 36-year-old male passenger — died in the crash.

The driver of the Forte, John P. Bannister, was ejected. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Daryl E. Harton, also was pronounced dead at the scene. Bannister and Harton both resided in the 300 block of West Main Street in Belleville, according to authorities.

The pickup’s driver was going the wrong way, according to police.

According to St. Clair County Circuit Court records, Helfrich has been cited four times on charges of driving under the influence — most recently in October.

The other citations were issued in May 2015, April 2009 and November 2000.

The outcomes in each of those cases weren’t immediately clear Saturday. But court records indicate Helfrich is scheduled for an appearance July 25 in the most recent case.

Crime-scene detectives, Belleville Fire Department personnel and ambulance crews were dispatched to the area.

Belleville police’s traffic unit was investigating and conducting a reconstruction, Keilbach said.

Anyone with information on the accident can call Belleville police at 618-234-1212.

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