Metro-East News

Families of men killed in wrong-way Illinois 15 crash file wrongful-death suit

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.

The families of the two men killed in a wrong-way crash on Illinois 15 in July 2017 have filed a wrongful-death suit against the other driver.

John Bannister, 37, and Daryl Harton, 36, were killed July 8 as they were out celebrating their anniversary. A witness told police she was driving east when Kevin Helfrich's truck passed her in the other eastbound lane, traveling west. His truck struck a car behind her head-on shortly after.

Investigators found open cans of Stag beer and prescription pill bottles in Helfrich's truck, according to a search warrant affidavit released after the crash. Helfrich was trapped underneath his steering wheel, unconscious but breathing. He was hospitalized for a lengthy period after the crash and was released from jail, so he could get to doctor appointments for his extensive medical care.

The two families are suing Helfrich in connection with the deaths of Bannister and Harton, who were soulmates, their families said. The lawsuit says Helfrich's behavior showed a "complete indifference to the safety of others."

When reached Wednesday night, Helfrich declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuits seeks money for losses suffered, and funeral and burial costs.

Helfrich was charged with aggravated DUI resulting in death and two counts of reckless homicide. His case was still pending in St. Clair County as of Thursday. This DUI was the fifth time he was charged with drunken driving in St. Clair County.

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