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Reconstructing fatal crash in Ashland could take weeks

The police investigation into the July 22 crash involving state Sen. Janet Bewley that killed a Pennsylvania woman and her daughter is being conducted by the Ashland Police Department with assistance from the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Janet Bewley
Janet Bewley.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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ASHLAND — Reconstructing the crash involving state Sen. Janet Bewley that killed a Pennsylvania woman and her child could take weeks.

State patrol staff are working to investigate the July 22 crash in Ashland in which authorities say Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason, pulled onto Highway 2 from a Lake Superior beach area and struck a car driven by Alyssa Ortman, of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, spinning her car into a third vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.

Alyssa Ortman, 27, and her 5-year-old child died after their car collided with another driven by state Sen. Janet Bewley.

Ortman and her 5-year-old daughter did not survive the crash. Bewley’s staff said she was not seriously injured.

The broader investigation into the crash is being handled by the Ashland Police Department, but reconstruction is managed by state patrol officers. Reconstruction can take weeks or sometimes months, according to Chris Jushka, a captain with the state patrol’s special operations division.

“I would suspect that this will be done in the next several weeks,” Jushka told the News Tribune on Thursday morning. The patrolman responsible for the reconstruction, Sgt. Mike Marquardt, is on vacation this week, Jushka said.


Janet Bewley accident.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

The reconstruction itself considers forensic evidence — skid marks on a road, for instance, or damage to a vehicle — to try to determine what happened during a crash, how fast vehicles involved were traveling, and so on, Jushka explained. Investigators also speak with witnesses and review videos of the crash, if any were recorded by a dash camera or nearby home or business.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported earlier this week that one of the newspaper’s interns was on the phone with Bewley the day of the crash, and the senator said she had cataract eye surgery the day before. Bewley, the paper claimed, abruptly stopped speaking during the phone call and, when asked if she was OK, said: “Yeah, I'm OK. This is not a good accident.”

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.
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