Pedestrian in campus crash was junior at UI

Pedestrian in campus crash was junior at UI

URBANA — A University of Illinois student killed in a traffic accident on campus Wednesday morning was a junior majoring in agribusiness, UI officials said Thursday.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said Mimi Liu, 20, of Chicago died at 10:39 a.m. Wednesday at Carle Foundation Hospital's emergency room after being hit by a pickup truck as she and another woman walked along Lincoln Avenue in Urbana. An autopsy will not be performed.

The second woman hit by the truck, UI junior Spandana Mantravadi, 20, remained hospitalized at Carle with what police described as non-life-threatening injuries. She was listed in stable condition on Wednesday night.
The Urbana Police Department and the Champaign County Coroner's Office are actively investigating the accident.
The man believed responsible, Willie Craft Sr., 58, of the 1200 block of West Hill Street, Urbana, has been issued traffic tickets for driving without insurance and improper lane usage, Urbana police Sgt. Dan Morgan said.
Earlier, Urbana police Lt. Bob Fitzgerald said at 9:53 a.m., a pickup truck headed south on Lincoln was reported to be driving erratically.
Police said the truck left the road several times, drove across a sidewalk, and hit street signs.
It sideswiped a UI Facilities & Services truck and continued for a few more blocks before jumping a curb and striking the two women. The driver of the UI truck was not injured.
A six-block stretch of Lincoln from Nevada Street south to Pennsylvania Avenue was quickly closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic and surrounded with crime scene tape as investigators tried to piece together what happened.
Officers from the UI Police Department assisted with road closure and traffic control.
The women were taken to Carle Foundation Hospital, while Craft, who was driving an older Chevrolet pickup, was questioned by police.
There was a preliminary suggestion that the man may have suffered from a medical condition, but Fitzgerald said that had not been confirmed. Morgan said Craft, who has diabetes,- was taken to Carle for a blood test, as is required under Illinois law any time a person is injured in a traffic crash. He was then released from police custody.
The truck came to rest about 50 yards north of Pennsylvania Avenue against the retaining wall alongside the sidewalk that runs by Illini Grove.
The normally bustling area was quiet at class change time during the noon hour Wednesday.
Pedestrians were being allowed to cross Lincoln in one area just south of McKinley Health Center.
It was reopened to traffic about 2:45 p.m., Fitzgerald said.
Police ask that anybody with further information call the Urbana Police Department at 384-2320 or remain anonymous by calling Champaign County Crimestoppers at 217-373-TIPS or text “CCTip” plus the information to CRIMES (274637).
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Alexander wrote on October 09, 2013 at 6:10 pm

This is so sad. 

Ticket for illegal lane change???? I hope there are actual charges in this case forthcoming.

rivardau wrote on October 09, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Driving without insurance and killing someone?  and only a ticket, not an arrest and taken to jail to keep him from driving again tonite or tomorrow?

With no insurance, I doubt driver is going to have the assets to pay for the survivor's medical bills, nor to pay any damages to the family of the deceased.

What a crock! !!!!

Regardless of whether the driver had medical issues today to cause an accident -



After killing someone, he is only ticketed????  and probably told to "don't drive again", but since he obviously already has shown that he can't be trusted to stay out of a vehicle when he doesn't have proper insurance on it to cover potential costs for innocent bystanders - he should have been spending at least tonite in jail and be posting a bond to get out so that he can't drive around tonite killing more people.

Martin1 wrote on October 09, 2013 at 9:10 pm
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I could not agree with you more. What a tragedy and travesty rolled into one.

tellingthetruth wrote on October 10, 2013 at 8:10 am

There are a lot of traffic violations for this man via the circuit clerk's website.  They said he was a Sr.  Seems to have utter disregard for the rules of the road and now it's cost someone their life.  So sad.

areader wrote on October 10, 2013 at 9:10 am

What a horrible tragedy!  What was this DRIVER thinking????  And punishment--why don't you just slap his hand and let him walk!!!!  My thoughts and prayers to the family of the young lady killed.  And to those to make the laws--get idiots off the road who should NOT BE DRIVING!!!!!!  The punishment for this crime is UNACCEPTABLE!

winterstorm wrote on October 10, 2013 at 9:10 am

This person has so so so many traffic offenses, including operating an uninsured vehicle (many times), and driving under the influence of alcohol. I just don't understand...

wayward wrote on October 10, 2013 at 10:10 am

There may be more than one Willie Craft, because the one with the multiple felony convictions has a birthdate listed that would make him a lot younger than 58.  If this was a case of the driver having a legitimate medical issue, than this may just be a terrible tragedy with victims but no villain.

Mary Schenk wrote on October 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

There are indeed two men with the same name of Willie Craft. Police say they are father and son. Champaign County court records indicate the Craft involved in Wednesday's crash received speeding tickets in 1988, 1989, and 1990, and another in 2005 for driving an uninsured motor vehicle and disregarding a traffic control device.

The case is still being actively investigated by Urbana police.

wayward wrote on October 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Mary.  If there's any kind of benefit/fundraiser to help with funeral expenses or the survivor's medical expenses, it would be good to know about it.

fuddrules wrote on October 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Thank you Mary,

A lot of uninformed posters posting after this article.

sweet caroline wrote on October 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm

The 58-year-old Willie Craft who was the driver of the truck does NOT have a history of drunk driving.  His traffic offenses were for other reasons and occurred long ago.  It is his SON by the same name who has the history of drunk driving. 

The senior Mr. Craft has a severe medical condition that resulted in his becoming extremely disoriented, thus causing this tragic accident. 

grounded wrote on October 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

If someone has such a severe medical condition that causes them to become extremely disoriented, to where they would be a danger to others, the responsible action on their part would be to not drive at all.    

wayward wrote on October 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Hopefully they'll take another look at whether he should have a license.  Not his fault if he's poor and has a medical condition, but he probably still shouldn't be on the road.

Disgruntled_Illini wrote on October 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Is this a joke?  Oops, i have diabetes that I refuse to control so whatever.  Also I just don't believe in auto insurance so I won't buy that either.  So I won't take my insulin and I'll run down two girls on the sidewalk while doing 70 on Lincoln.  Whatever, who cares.  This guy is a piece of trash that murdered an innocent girl, don't call it a tragic accident--call it as it is, a crime.   A spade is a spade. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on October 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Hug your kids a little closer you never know when an unthinkable tragedy like this can occur.

I would also like to know if there is a fund for the vitcims and their families to contribute to.

Yocal wrote on October 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

He has an extreme medical condition that causes disorientation? Yet he continues to drive AND fails to purchase car insurance? Get this guy off the streets and into jail. Prayers to the family of the deceased and injured young women.

Joe American wrote on October 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Yes, this is a horrendous tragedy that should never have happened.  But I'm finding that the uninsured driver is all too common, and it seems that each incident comes to light ONLY after they kill someone or do serious damage.  Enforcing the mandatory insurance law is impossible, short of incarceration for everyday offenses, and that isn't going to happen.  The state can revoke your license, but "big deal", what's keeping the offender from going behind the wheel?  Absolutley NOTHING.  It's been happening since the law's inception, and it will continue as long as humans exist.

Disgruntled_Illini wrote on October 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm

What do you propose then?  An ID scanner to start your car?

Joe American wrote on October 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm

And that would work HOW?

It would be no different than the breathalyzers that you need to breathe into prior to starting a vehicle. Let's assume you've lost your license due to a DUI and had to swipe a card to start a vehicle. Since there is no law on the books that would prevent me from driving your car, what would stop me from swiping my card so that you can go out driving? I likely wouldn't get caught until someone died.

It's clear from my post that I don't have a solution. And apparently neither does anyone else.

Thom Foolery wrote on October 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

In situations like this, I remember the Saudi approach to theft--amputation of hands--and wonder if something similar shouldn't be proposed for repeat DUIs, driving with a revoked license, and driving without insurance. After all, whereas simply taking away paperwork doesn't keep them out of the driver's seat, taking away the actual hands would certainly make driving more of a challenge. Of course, it would violate all sorts of norms, from the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, to our general sense of humaneness in the treatment of others. I jest with this suggestion, but honestly, how do you apply laws to folks who are that recalcritrant?

Disgruntled_Illini wrote on October 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm

This piece of human garbage deserves more than what he will ever get.  The bottom line is that he shouldn't have been in a car without insurance.  He shouldn't have been in a car in an uncontrolled diabetic state.  He is no better than a drunk driver without a license--he failed to see to remediation of his medical condition, and got behind the wheel of a car that he couldn't control.  I genuinely hope that the actions of the families of the victims aren't bound by the constraints of law.

PJ16 wrote on October 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm

As the most important local news paper, I, as one of thousands common UC residence, hope the progress of investigation will be continuously tracked and reported. How could a so-called "medical condition" be the excuse for a speed driving in the busies campus road with a 30-mph limit! how could it just explain to the parents of a college girl, the best age of life! Millions of people has diabetes, there is definitely a lot more people has more serious medical problems than the killer, but they all beheave themself as normal man and may be understand more deeply than healthy ones about the importance of life, as they suffered more.

Hope the truth will be reveal out ASAP, otherwise it will the biggest shame of Illini, as it even cannot protect their student from being justicely treated.



Bulldogmojo wrote on October 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

For people who have questionable driving histories the Secretary of State sends out occasional audit letters that require you to provide proof of insurance on certain vehicles during certain timeframes and if you don't provide it you get your license suspended. Maybe it's time they ramp up the volume of that program and to include everyone regardless of driving record history.

Joe American wrote on October 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Explain how getting his license suspended would have prevented this.  Although the thought is sincere, the outcome would have reflected the drivers actions.

Bulldogmojo wrote on October 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm

That system would flag the actual vehicle even before an official suspension not unlike the SR-22 filing for DUI offenders during a probationary reissuance of a driving license. It may not have prevented this particular situation but makes it easier to connect an uninsured driver to the License plate itself increasing the chances for police to stop the uninsured just by routine calling in of the plate.

C-U Townie wrote on October 13, 2013 at 12:10 am

Having diabetes is NOT an excuse. Diabetes is a manageable condition. A friend of mine just had this argument on Facebook with people who believed that having diabetes is literally a "get out of jail free" card. It's NOT. My friend is Type 1 and backed the argument that if you have diabetes you know your body and when your sugars are crashing... not crashED... crashING. You have signs. More importantly you have hindsight to know to eat something after taking insulin. Diabetics commonly carry items with them like juice boxes and candy so that if they feel their sugars are crashing they can remedy it pretty quickly. For his age I'm sure he's had enough education regarding diabetes to know how to prevent his sugars from crashing... especially to this extreme.

This man chose to ignore the serious needs of his condition (if that truly is the case... that this was diabetes related). He chose to drive without insurance. And due to his gross negligence he has killed a young woman. I think he needs to serve serious jailtime. Not to keep him off the road, but so that he is held accountable for the tragedy he caused. For those who want to cut him some slack, look on the bright side. In jail he'll get free healthcare to manage his condition.