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Nine Illinois football fans hurt in van-spinning crash

Nearly a dozen people were hurt, one seriously, when a van careened through an Illinois high school parking lot following a recent Friday night football game. Carthage police say the 71-year-old van driver may have had a medical incident while backing out of a parking space.

Police reports say the pedestrian accident happened just as Illini West High School football fans were exiting through a gate into the parking area. The elderly driver apparently experienced "shortness of breath" which caused her to lose control of the reversing vehicle. Nine injured pedestrians were the result.

Adults and students were struck as the vehicle spun in three, full circles through the school parking area. A 50-year-old LaHarpe woman, who suffered pelvic and rib fractures and internal injuries, was airlifted to a local medical facility. She was later hospitalized in Peoria.

Other adult and student pedestrians were treated and transported to hospitals for fractured toes, a shoulder separation, a broken leg and assorted minor injuries. The police report did not mention whether the van driver was hurt.

Illini West High School officials praised the quick, appropriate responses of the students who witnessed the accident. Some of the students raced to check the driver's condition and to immobilize the van. Additional counselors were made available for students on the day high school classes resumed.

Illinois State Police have viewed a video of the crash taken by school security cameras to aid in accident reconstruction. Police have not filed charges or have indicated whether they will.

The van driver's "shortness of breath" episode is likely to be examined in detail. Officials will want to learn whether the driver's medical condition directly contributed to the accident or whether the elderly woman momentarily panicked.

The resulting evidence will determine whether the driver is criminally charged with negligence. Independent liability lawsuits may also be filed by the injury victims against the driver and possibly the high school to recover medical expenses and other damages.

Source: journalpilot.com, "Accident injures 9 after IWHS football game," Joy Swearingen, Aug. 28, 2012

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