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Interstate deaths ruled accidental

Published: Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 1:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 5:52 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — The deaths of two area men less than one day and one-half mile apart along Interstate 80 were ruled accidental by a Bureau County coroner's jury Thursday.

On June 24, Robin J. Hawthorne, 56, of Streator was killed in a four-vehicle accident near Mile Marker 67 on Interstate 80.

Illinois State Trooper Jonathan Kueker said the driver of the first vehicle began drifting toward the median, overcorrected, and struck a nearby vehicle.

The driver of the second vehicle lost control, spun into the median, became airborne and landed directly on top of Hawthorne's vehicle before bouncing off and striking a fourth vehicle.

Coroner Janice Wamhoff said the autopsy showed Hawthorne died of blunt trauma to the head due to a multiple vehicle collision. The state is still waiting on the toxicology results of the first driver, but Wamhoff said there was no indication the driver was under any influence.

The jury ruled the death accidental, as it did the death of William J. Meyers, 64, of Granville on June 25.

Illinois State Police Trooper Matt Dalton said Meyers was mowing the side of Interstate 80 between Mile Markers 67 and 68. While backing up the mower, a tire became stuck in a concrete culvert, and Meyers lost control. The mower travelled down the steep slope before ejecting Meyers and coming to rest on top of him.

Wamhoff said the autopsy showed Meyers died of traumatic asphyxia due to a tractor crash. Meyers' toxicology test came back negative for drugs and alcohol.

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