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USDOT Calls Driver That Struck Trooper Deatherage, “Imminent Hazard”

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MADISON COUNTY, IL (KTVI) – FOX2 is learning more about the tractor trailer driver involved in the I-55 wreck that killed Illinois State Trooper Kyle Deatherage on November 26th.

Deatherage was standing outside his vehicle during a traffic stop on I-55 when he was fatally hit by a tractor trailer.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the driver is Johnny Felton, Jr., from Georgia, who was driving for a Mt. Sterling, IL trucking company called DOT Transportation, Inc. (no relation to the government agency).

The U.S. DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared Felton an "imminent hazard" and took away his privilege to drive commercially. Investigators also found that Felton hid medical conditions and treatments that would make him unfit to drive a truck.

FOX2 spoke with a state attorney’s office representative, who expects charges to be filed against this driver. However, that probably won't happen until the investigation wraps up.
In the meantime, many say this tragedy could have been prevented had the driver followed Illinois’ move over law, known as “Scott’s Law”.  Now, a friend of Deatherage’s and Madison County towing company owner is taking action to prevent fatal wrecks like the one that took his friend.

Almost every day, Trickey’s Service Inc. owner Steve Kainz works on the shoulder of busy roads, helping law enforcement clear up wrecks. It’s dangerous work, especially since he sees Scott’s Law often ignored by drivers flying by. He explains, “The cars are that close where you can just feel them come by you. And it’s a scary feeling, it really is. One wrong step the wrong way, and that’s it.”

Kainz has attended too many funerals lately, tow truck drivers killed by motorists who didn’t move over. He says nationwide, there were 28 of these deaths this year alone. Kainz explains, “That number is unacceptable. Unacceptable. For people out doing their job, trying to provide for their families.”

Urging drivers to “move over” for emergency crews is a cause Kainz is passionate about. He’s working with local police departments to raise awareness, and hopes to change a state law to allow red and blue lights on tow trucks and IDOT vehicles.

Kainz feels drivers just don’t know they need to move over for all lit-up vehicles, “I think people are just numb to the yellow. They know what it is, and they’re just numb to it. Doesn’t seem to bother them.”

Even more important, he wants to make sure his friend, Kyle Deatherage, didn’t die in vain.  Kainz explains, “Something has to be done. His death could’ve been avoided, as far as I’m concerned. That truck driver had every chance to get over, to slow down, to do what he needed to do not to make that happen.”

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