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Driver identified in fatal crash that killed pedestrian, injured officer on Sterling bridge

Wayne A. Witt

STERLING – Investigators identified the driver accused of driving drunk, hitting and killing a pedestrian Sunday morning on the First Avenue Bridge, as Wayne A. Witt Jr., 46, of Sterling.

According to a news release from the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office, Sterling police officer Travis Nease was parked in the southbound lane of the bridge south of Wallace Street, emergency lights activated, around 12:40 a.m.

Nease was standing by the rear of the car talking with pedestrian Drew W. Barger when Witt’s northbound pickup crossed the centerline, striking Nease and the squad car, and trapping Barger under the truck. The truck then continued on, crashing into the viaduct center support, the release said.

Barger, 35, of Sterling, died at the scene.

Nease was treated at CGH Medical Center and released.

Witt is in Whiteside County jail, facing a preliminary charge of aggravated DUI. The investigation continues and more charges are pending, the release said.

The bridge was closed from Second Street in Sterling to Second Street in Rock Falls until about 6:30 a.m.

Because the crash involves an officer, Sterling Police requested the Sheriff’s Department investigate, as is standard procedure.



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.