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Report: Driver was traveling at 100 mph when she collided with Sen. Bewley's car

The crash killed the driver and her 5-year old daughter. Bewley had only minor injuries.

Three crashed vehicles in the middle of a 5-lane road
From left, the vehicles driven by Jodi Munson, Alyssa Ortman and Janet Bewley sit in the middle of U.S. Highway 2 after a crash on July 22 killed Ortman and her 5-year-old daughter Khalessi Fink. Ortman is believed to have been traveling 100 mph when she struck Bewley's vehicle pulling out from the beach parking lot and then spun into Munson's vehicle traveling the opposite direction.
Contributed / Wisconsin State Patrol
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ASHLAND — A driver was traveling at 100 mph seconds before colliding with a vehicle driven by a Wisconsin state senator in a July crash in Ashland.

The crash killed the driver of the speeding vehicle, Alyssa Ortman, 27, of Clearfield, Pennsylvania, and her 5-year-old daughter, Khalessi Fink.

Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason, pulled out from a public beach in Ashland to turn east onto U.S. Highway 2 shortly before 12:30 p.m. July 22, when her car collided with the car driven by Ortman heading west. A third vehicle, driven by Jodi Munson of Washburn, was heading east when Ortman's car spun across the highway and struck it.

Janet Bewley accident.jpg

Data pulled from Ortman's 2019 Honda Civic shows she was traveling at 100 miles per hour and she applied the brake at that speed. Within 2.5 seconds of applying the brake, the crash occurred and her vehicle slowed to 5 miles per hour, according to the data.

The details come in a new batch of reports released by the Wisconsin State Patrol, which were first reported by the Ashland Daily Press and were later also obtained by the News Tribune and Superior Telegram through a data request.

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Bewley had no alcohol in her system at the time of the crash, a toxicology report included in the records shows. A vape pen found with Ortman at the hospital is "believed" to "possibly" contain delta-8, Sgt. Michael Marquardt wrote in a Aug. 17 report supplement.

Delta-8 THC is derived from hemp and is legal in Wisconsin.

The records also included audio of a 67-minute long interview Marquardt conducted with Bewley on Aug. 3.

Janet Bewley
Janet Bewley.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

In the interview, Bewley said she was on the phone with a reporter during the crash. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has previously reported that its intern was speaking with her at that time.

Bewley also said she had a cataract removed from her eye the morning before the crash but that the procedure improved, not inhibited, her vision.

"Your vision is actually perfect from the moment the cataract's off," Bewley said in the interview. "They take the cataract off, put the lenses in and it's, like, miraculous."

Describing the moment before the crash, Bewley said she saw two black vehicles coming, but figured they were far enough away that at that speed limit, she had time to pull out of the parking lot and cross the lanes. The speed limit there is 45 mph.

"I barely moved a foot and pow — I got hit ... My first thought was 'Where the hell did that car come from?'" Bewley said.

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Ashland County District Attorney David Meany said he has received some reports but is determining whether he has all investigative reports. Once he determines he has all the reports, he'll decide whether to file charges.

A map showing the three vehicle crash from above.
A map of the July 22 crash in Ashland.
Contributed / Wisconsin State Patrol

"The review process is continuing and as of this time, no decision has been made," he told the News Tribune on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier this month, Brandon Fink of Pennsylvania, the father of Khalessi Fink, filed wrongful death suit in Ashland County Circuit Court against Bewley, Munson and three insurance companies in response to the fatal crash.

The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $10,000. The responding parties have 45 days to respond to the complaint. Fink is requesting that the case be tried by a 12-person jury.

This story was updated at 4:12 p.m. Oct. 27 with the speed limit at the crash location. It was originally posted at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 27.

Related Topics: CRASHESASHLAND COUNTYWISCONSIN
Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.