'Disk error' destroys photos in Wood River crash
WOOD RIVER – Police took many photos along Rock Hill Road after prospective grand jury witness Khara Daniels wrecked her car, but not one picture will see the light of day. "Disk error" ruined all the photos, according to a Wood River police report on the May 17 accident. Police released the report Sept. 1, more than 100 days after the crash. Police figured out how the accident happened without the photos, but countless details of the circumstances slipped away. In this case circumstances matter most. Prior to the crash, many who knew Daniels expected her to testify May 17 before a federal grand jury investigating attorney Tom Lakin. No public record identified her as a witness, but the publicity took care of itself after she crashed around 1:45 a.m. on the day she would have testified. So many reporters called Wood River police that deputy chief Otis Steward issued a press release to hold them off until officers could prepare an accident report. Tire marks on Rock Hill Road indicated that Daniels misjudged a curve to the right, slid left, steered right as she climbed a hill, jerked left and struck a curb. Gouges in the earth indicated that she left the road, dug into an embankment and plowed up the hill, skipping twice into the air. Steward said in a May 24 interview that police had nothing to connect the accident to Lakin. He said the report was not ready. At his direction the Madison County Record filed a request for notice of the report, but the Record received no notice. Police released the report in response to an Aug. 29 request. In the report investigating officer Thomas Kochan wrote that Daniels entered the curve at 71 miles an hour, in excess of the posted limit of 30. Her 2003 Pontiac Grand Am crossed the center line, Kochan wrote, and the rear wheels began tracking outside of the front wheels. He wrote that the car "…continued this motion as it went through the curve and began up the hill on Rock Hill Road." He wrote that, "…it appeared to regain traction, however the vehicle would have been traveling at an angle to the roadway, heading off the south side of the roadway." He wrote that Daniels made a sharp left turn to regain control but the rear wheels again tracked outside of the front wheels. He wrote that the uphill grade kept the car from overturning, "…but the vehicle would have been spinning in a counterclockwise manner." While it spun it struck the curb, tipping right but still not turning over. Kochan wrote, "Unit 1 continued traveling through the earthen embankment and up a slope to its point of final rest." He wrote that at one point the car might have slid on its right side. Somewhere on the hill the car turned itself around. It came to rest facing west, the opposite of her original direction. Daniels wore no seat belt. Kochan wrote that officers found her face on the back seat, her feet on the front passenger seat, and her hips on top of the passenger seat. Police found turf in a headlight and in seams along the hood and a door. Inside the car they found a carton that had held four Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. One bottle remained. The car stereo played "extremely loud," according to the report. Daniels's registration had expired, and police found no proof of insurance. Police somewhere in Illinois had arrested her 18 months earlier on a charge of driving without insurance. Kochan wrote, "There did not appear to be any outside factors that played a role in this crash."