1 dead, 3 hurt in 2 successive crashes on U.S. 20

Brian Klingerman died of his injuries after being pinned in his Nissan on U.S. 20. (La Porte County Sherriff’s Office photo)

Two crashes involving a total of six vehicles resulted in one death and three injuries on Nov. 20, 2020. Brian E. Klingerman, 62, of Bremen, Ind., died of his injuries after the first crash.

The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office provided this information on what happened:

At about 4:32 p.m., deputies were summoned to U.S. 20 and CR-200E in rural Kankakee Township. The crash investigation conducted by Deputy Evan Doperalski determined that a silver 2004 Ford driven by Arthur C. McNeeley, 61, of Mishawaka, Ind., was traveling east on U.S. 20 in the passing lane. A silver 2015 Cadillac driven by Debra J. Birkholz, 69, of La Porte, was waiting in the passing lane facing east to turn north onto CR-200E.  McNeeley tried to avoid Birkholz’s car, but the front passenger corner of McNeeley’s truck collided with the rear driver’s side of Birkholz’s vehicle.

McNeeley’s truck veered left of center and into the westbound lanes of U.S. 20, then collided with an orange 2016 Nissan driven by Klingerman. The front driver’s corner of McNeeley’s truck struck the front driver’s side of Klingerman’s car. A silver 2013 Toyota driven by Kristina Wu, 53, of La Porte, was traveling west on U.S. 20 in the driving lane behind Klingerman.  Following the McNeeley-Klingerman collision, the front passenger side of Wu’s car collided with the rear driver’s side of Klingerman’s car.

McNeeley was pinned inside his truck and required extrication.  He suffered a lower body injury and was transported by ambulance to a hospital. Toxicology test results are pending.

Klingerman was also pinned inside of his vehicle and required extrication. He sustained an upper body injury and was transported by ambulance to a hospital. A front-seat passenger of Klingerman’s, Joyce M. Klingerman, 65, was also pinned and required extrication. She suffered an upper body injury and was transported to a hospital. A rear seat passenger of Klingerman’s, Jessica L. Klingerman, 33, suffered an upper body injury and was transported to a hospital.

Several hours later, Doperalski learned that Brian Klingerman had died of his injuries. Toxicology test results are pending.

At 4:57 p.m., while deputies were investigating the above crash, they were summoned to U.S. 20 and CR-300E for another crash. Deputy Micah Hatley determined that a blue 2005 Mazda driven by Hailey Joy B. Del Valle, 19, of East Chicago, Ind., was traveling north on CR-300E and failed to stop at the stop sign on CR-300East at U.S. 20.  Her vehicle traveled into the westbound lanes of U.S. 20 and collided with a black 2016 Ford driven by Minh N. Nguyen, 58, of Pattonville, Texas. The front of Del Valle’s car hit the driver’s side of Nguyen’s truck, which was pulling a 2020 Sprinter recreational vehicle.  The crash caused Nguyen’s truck and RV to jackknife.

Del Valle will be issued the following traffic citations:

  • disregarding a stop sign
  • learner’s permit violation
  • false and fictitious registration
  • failure to register
  • no vehicle insurance

U.S. 20 was closed in both directions for approximately 2.5 hours for the crash investigations and removal of the involved vehicles.

Captain Derek J. Allen states, “As traffic volume increases during the upcoming holiday season, motorists are reminded and encouraged to utilize defensive driving techniques to keep themselves, their passengers and other motorists safe. In addition, drivers should limit the amount of distractions within their vehicle to ensure their full attention is given to the safe operation of their motor vehicle.”

Besides the sheriff’s office, other emergency responders were Michigan City Police, La Porte County EMS, Kankakee and Springfield township volunteer fire departments, St. Joseph County Coroner’s Office, Ace Towing, Quick’s Towing, Stan’s Towing, Action Towing, and Barnes Towing.

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