One-car crash in Wood River fuels curiosity

Steve Korris May 25, 2006, 2:31pm

Like crop circles, gouges in the earth along Rock Hill Road suggest routine human activity to some and earth shaking conspiracy to others.

Khara Daniels, 22, of Wood River, plowed 100 feet of ground going uphill when her 2003 Pontiac Grand Am jumped a curb at 1:44 a.m. Wednesday, May 17.

A hump of earth launched the car into the air for 20 feet. The car slammed down, skipped up again and cleared another 25 feet before it thudded to a stop.

The terrific crash did not kill Daniels. It did turn her into a celebrity.

Like wildfire, a story spread that Daniels would have testified later that day before a federal grand jury investigating attorney Tom Lakin.

No one has confirmed her status as a witness, but that has not stilled speculation about foul play.

Wood River deputy police chief Otis Steward issued a press release May 18, after news reporters asked for an accident report.

Steward said May 24 that reporters and others connected Lakin to the accident. He said police have nothing to connect them.

A week after the crash he had not released an accident report. He said an accident reconstruction officer was working on it.

In an interview at his office, Steward picked up a letter and said it came from an attorney who wanted the accident report. He would not identify the attorney.

The press release portrayed the crash as a typical early morning mishap of a young adult.

It stated that Daniels traveled north on Rock Hill Road at excessive speed.

It said, "Daniels attempted to negotiate a curve in the roadway, but lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle continued out of control until it impacted the earthen embankment and trees."

It said she apparently did not wear a seat belt.

It said, "There were indications that alcohol might have been involved in the crash."

The press release left a question mark, because Daniels did not jump the curb in the curve or even near it.

She left the road about 170 feet uphill from the spot where the curve straightens out.

Dots of white paint show the path police believe she followed.

The dots show that as Rock Hill Road curved right and started uphill, Daniels drifted left and crossed the center line.

The dots show that she nearly struck the curb on the left near the end of the curve. Heavy tire tracks show that her car gripped the road inches from the curb.

Where the road straightens, the tracks disappear. The dots show that she swerved right, nearly returning to her proper lane.

Tracks and dots show that she veered left and struck the curb at an angle of about 20 degrees. Her tires left three black smudges on the curb.

In all, according to the dots, she changed direction three times – left, right, and left. The dots draw a backward S up the hill.

Each swerve would have reduced her momentum, and the pounding of her tires on the curb would have acted like brakes.

Yet she maintained enough speed to plow 100 feet uphill and achieve flight.

Steward said officers at the scene started the kind of investigation they would conduct after a fatal crash, because they thought her injuries might be fatal.

Doctors at St. Louis University Hospital treated Daniels and sent her home in about a week.

She almost made it home the night of the crash.

According to the press release she lives at Wyndham Terrace. That is an apartment complex off Rock Hill Road near the crash scene.

The car came to rest on Wyndham Terrace property.

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