Metro-East News

Despite 4 DUI arrests, wrong-way driver in double-fatal crash had valid license

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 driver who police say was going the wrong way in a double-fatal crash in Belleville had a valid driver’s license despite being arrested four times on charges of driving under the influence.

The driver, 54-year-old Kevin Helfrich, of New Athens, was arrested four times on DUI charges since 2000 — most recently in October 2016, according to court records.

Dave Druker, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said Sunday that Helfrich had a valid license. Druker said he did not have immediately have other details available on Helfrich’s driving record. But Druker noted that revocation of a driver’s license is based on convictions, not merely arrests.

The outcomes of Helfrich’s four DUI cases, all in St. Clair County, could not immediately be determined Sunday due to the courthouse being closed.

Helfrich remained hospitalized Sunday. He was being treated at Saint Louis University Hospital, but because his family restricted hospital staff from releasing information about him, details about his condition were not available Sunday.

John Bannister, 37, and Daryl Harton, 36, both of Belleville and who were riding together, were pronounced dead at the scene after their Kia Forte sedan hit Helfrich’s GMC Sierra pickup. Harton and Bannister were celebrating their anniversary, according to family members.

Daryl and John
Daryl Harton (left), 36, and John Bannister (right), 37, both of Belleville and who were riding together, were pronounced dead at the scene. Provided

Lt. Rob Thomason of the Belleville Police Department said the crash was still being investigated as of Sunday.

Belleville police got the call at 12:44 a.m. Saturday morning. At first, the call was about Helfrich’s pickup going the wrong way on Illinois 15. Minutes later, police got another call about a head-on crash.

The Belleville Police Department asked that anyone with information about the crash call 618-234-1212.

Casey Bischel: 618-239-2655, @CaseyBischel

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