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Illinois church van crash kills 5, injuries several victims

A cross-country trip for members of an East Coast religious organization was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Five men in that group, ages 29 to 54, died during a weekday morning rollover crash in South Central Illinois.

Illinois State Police said all but two of the 11 people were ejected from a church van during the fatal accident outside Vandalia. Six people were hospitalized. An unspecified number of people were critically injured. Reports did not state whether the driver was among the victims who survived.

The van was the only vehicle involved in the fatal crash. Authorities said it appeared the driver unsuccessfully attempted to correct the van's path as the vehicle veered off the road. The van crumpled, flipped four times and landed in a grassy area alongside Interstate 70.

The religious group was returning from a coast-to-coast journey. The accident took place after the men made a stop at a convention in Canada on a return trip from California.

Investigators hope to learn what happened in the moments leading up to the crash. Surviving victims may be able to tell whether the van driver was fatigued, ill or distracted. The driver also may have over-corrected while trying to avoid an obstacle in the road.

The group traveled thousands of miles in the van. Police will inspect the vehicle for defects like worn tires and mechanical problems. The van's service history will tell whether the vehicle was properly maintained by the owners, presumably the religious organization for which the men worked.

Police evidence would benefit plaintiffs in wrongful death and personal injury cases. Charges of negligence could be narrowed to the van driver or spread among several defendants. Claims might be made against the religious organization, the van manufacturer or vehicle servicers.

Settlements and damage awards allow injured victims and surviving family members to recover financially from life-altering accidents.

Source:  baltimoresun.com, "Five Baltimore men killed, several others injured in Illinois crash" Kevin Rector, May. 22, 2013

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