Semi driver involved in fatal collision in Rock Falls has hearing next month

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ROCK FALLS – The driver of a semitractor-trailer charged with improper passing in the death of a tractor driver is scheduled to appear in Whiteside County traffic court in Sterling on May 13.

The sheriff’s crash reconstruction team still is investigating the collision, which happened April 3 when the 41-year-old Rock Falls man was hit and killed by a semi as he was driving a tractor south of Rock Falls, Sheriff John Booker said.

The semi driver, Gustavo Cervantes, 39, of Crest Hill, was treated at CGH Medical Center in Sterling and released. He was cited for improper passing within 100 feet of an intersection.

Matthew Dean Miller, formerly of Chadwick, was northbound on state Route 40 about 9:20 a.m. and preparing to turn west onto Route 172/Star Road when the northbound semitrailer entered the southbound lane to overtake the tractor. The two vehicles collided at the intersection and went off the northwest side of the road, Sheriff John Booker said.

Miller died at the scene.

According to his obituary, posted on the Law Jones Funeral Home website, Miller worked for several area farms over the years.

Among others, he is survived by his children, Madalynn, Derek and Brooklyn; his father, Jeff Miller of Fairhaven; and siblings, Shelly Lantz and Jonathan Miller, both of Chadwick.

The fatal collision came six days after the driver of a pickup truck that investigators said failed to stop at an intersection on March 28, resulting in the deaths of his three passengers, was cited for failure to stop and for violating his graduated license restrictions.

Those charges have been dismissed for now, while the sheriff’s investigation into the cause of that crash continues. This is a common process when a person involved in a fatal traffic crash is charged with a traffic violation.

Once the investigation is complete, the Whiteside County State’s Attorney’s Office will review the evidence to decide if more serious charges should be filed, if it will reinstate the original traffic charges, or if it will make any other charging decision based on the findings.

Keyan L. Crow, 17, of Deer Grove, was cited on April 2 for failure to stop and for violating his graduated license restrictions. Those charges were dismissed April 10.

The driver of the semitractor-trailer that hit the pickup, Korey L. Hostetler, 29, also of Deer Grove, was cited April 1 for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. His charge stands, and he has an initial appearance Thursday, April 25.

Crow was driving his 2003 Ford pickup north on Luther Road just outside of Tampico about 1 p.m. when he failed to stop at a stop sign and was struck by Hostetler, Booker said.

Jayden Hanson and Channing Swertfeger, both 14, and Douglas “DJ” Dorathy, 16, died at the scene. Crow was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.

He initially was cited for disobeying a stop sign and because, until he turns 18 on Nov. 7, the number of passengers he is allowed to carry is limited to one person younger than 20, unless the passenger or passengers are siblings.

All four boys were Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico High School/Middle School students. Channing was an eighth-grader.

Hostetler, who was driving for Fairfield Specialty Eggs in Deer Grove, was not injured, the sheriff said.

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Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.