Metro-East News

Woman dies in crash on same stretch of road in Columbia that killed mother of six

A 37-year-old Columbia woman was killed in a two-car crash on Illinois 3 in Columbia Sunday night.

Police say Stacie Thoma was driving a 2002 Buick sedan east on Veterans Parkway attempting to cross Route 3 toward Columbia High School when a southbound white 2010 Ford F-150, driven by Michael Vanderschans, 33, of Winfield, Missouri, collided with the Buick at 8:36 p.m.

Thoma was taken to St. Anthony’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Vanderschans and his 29-year-old passenger were also taken to St. Anthony’s for minor injuries.

Columbia police conducted a crash reconstruction and are investigating the accident, a news release stated.

The road was closed for approximately four hours as emergency personnel responded and investigated.

In February, Emily Webb was killed and her six children were hospitalized after a crash at the intersection of Illinois 3 and Veterans Parkway when a dump truck collided with her family’s SUV.

The stretch of road Thoma was killed on has been an ongoing source of tension for the community.

About 4,000 people are part of the part of the Facebook group “Citizens Demanding Change Illinois Route 3, Columbia Illinois.” Many in the group call the road a dangerous stretch of highway, citing high speed limits, congestion and reckless driving as the cause of serious accidents.

Jennifer Hardester Ceradksy is one of the administrators of the group.

“We’re angry, frustrated, devastated,” she said. “What makes these deaths that occur rock our community to the core is that as individuals in Columbia, we seem to be one or two steps away from knowing this person. We also feel that it could have easily been any one of us, or worse, our kids.”

She said speeding, timing of the traffic lights and distracted driving contribute to the amount of accidents on Route 3.

Sometimes, she said, it’s “just the sheer ignorance of some drivers.”

“The unfortunate result is another innocent person lost their life by someone who just didn’t care,” she said.

Ceradsky said she and her family members drive through the intersection often and her father was even hit when someone ran a red light.

She said she, and many community members, feel that lower speed limits, better timing of the lights and a school zone identification sign may make the area safer.

“The biggest thing is for drivers to change their driving habits. Route 3 is not 270 or 255, and should be treated like a normal road with stop lights and access points,” she said.

Ceradsky said the Columbia police department, the Monroe Sheriff’s Department and city leadership have listened to the community and worked on changes at the intersection.

Going forward, she said, the group plans to continue putting pressure on IDOT to study the intersection and make further changes as needed. They also plan on contacting elected officials to make them aware of the ongoing problem.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 37 crashes at the intersection of Route 3 and Veterans Parkway from 2012 to 2015, resulting in 24 people being injured. None of the crashes were fatal.

Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul told the BND in February he was working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to see what could be done about the intersection.

Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6
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