Police analyzing driver's cellphone in I-57 wreck that killed Camargo girl

Police analyzing driver's cellphone in I-57 wreck that killed Camargo girl

URBANA — A Mattoon man issued traffic tickets in connection with an Interstate 57 crash in June that claimed the life of a Camargo child is due back in court next month.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Illinois State Police continue to analyze the cellphone that Steven R. Kruse, 37, had June 8 when his Jeep Cherokee crashed into the rear of a smaller car stopped in construction traffic on I-57 near Champaign.

Caitlin Conner, 10, of Camargo, a back-seat passenger in her grandmother's car, was killed.

Her grandmother, Debra Conner, 58, of Mattoon, and her sister, Lily Lawrence, 13, also of Camargo, were seriously injured.

State police said that Kruse became distracted just prior to the crash and didn't see Debra Conner's Chevrolet Cobalt in time to avoid hitting it from behind. It's unclear exactly how he became distracted, which is why police are taking a closer look at his cellphone. Depending on what they find, more serious charges could be lodged against Kruse.

The impact of his Jeep hitting the back of Conner's Cobalt pushed it into a semitrailer truck ahead of the Cobalt, creating an accordion-like effect.

The collision occurred about 4 p.m. that Thursday in the southbound lanes of I-57 just south of the Mattis Avenue overpass on Champaign's west side .

A GoFundMe page set up for the Conner family said both girls attended Villa Grove schools. Caitlin had just finished the fourth grade. Her sister will be a freshman at Villa Grove High School in the fall.

As of Friday, just over $24,000 had been raised to help the family with funeral and medical expenses.

Kruse was originally ordered to appear in court Friday on the tickets but that date was pushed back to Aug. 17 after Champaign attorney Matt Lee entered his appearance in the case on Wednesday.

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