Metro-East News

Wrong-way driver still hospitalized after double-fatal crash on Illinois 15

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.

Belleville police say a 54-year-old man accused of being drunk and driving the wrong way on Illinois 15 is still in the hospital almost a month after he was in a head-on collision that killed two other men.

Sgt. Todd Keilbach said Kevin G. Helfrich remained hospitalized as of Friday, but Keilbach did not know the status of Helfrich’s condition.

Helfrich was flown to Saint Louis University Hospital after the crash. But hospital staff said Friday morning he was no longer listed as a patient there. It’s possible that he was transferred to another hospital or medical facility.

In addition to a felony charge of aggravated DUI resulting in death, Helfrich faces two felony counts of reckless homicide in the July deaths of the occupants of the other vehicle: 37-year-old John Bannister and 36-year-old Daryl Harton. Bannister and Harton were out celebrating their anniversary.

This newest DUI charge is the fifth time Kevin G. Helfrich has been charged with drunken driving.

Helfrich previously pleaded guilty to a DUI charge in 2009, and he pleaded guilty to improper lane use charges twice after being charged with a DUI in 2000 and 2015, according to St. Clair County court records.

Helfrich
Helfrich

In two of those cases, police officers reported he had been pulled over for driving the wrong way.

Helfrich is still facing a DUI charge from October 2016. His license was suspended at the time, when he refused to take a blood-alcohol test. That suspension, however, was lifted a month later due to errors on the Centreville police officer’s sworn report.

The New Athens man has refused to take a blood-alcohol test and received the mandatory 12-month license suspension in each DUI charge Helfrich has faced in St. Clair County. Even so, he was able to get each suspension overturned in less than two months.

Motions filed by his defense attorneys in two separate DUIs asked the judge to allow Helfrich to drive again, claiming officers failed to warn Helfrich of the license suspension.

Daryl and John
Daryl Harton (left), 36, and John Bannister (right), 37, both of Belleville. Provided

And each time, a judge granted the request — putting Helfrich back behind the wheel legally.

He is scheduled to appear on his 2016 DUI charges Sept 26. His newest case, filed last month, will be presented later to a grand jury.

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