By Mike Heine/The Week
(Posted Saturday, Feb. 24, 2007 at 8:10 p.m.)
Walworth County Sheriff David Graves and three members of his family were injured in a two-car accident Friday night when a suspected drunken driver collided head on with the sheriff's personal vehicle.
Graves, his wife Connie, 45, daughter Shannon, 12, and niece, Sarah A. Johnson, 8, were all treated and released from Aurora Lakeland Medical Center for minor injuries.
Dana E. Wolf, 51, of N8161 Pleasant Lake Road, East Troy, was arrested for causing injury by operating while intoxicated.
According to the sheriff's department and Sheriff Graves, Wolf was northbound on Highway 12/67 just north of County A when she swerved her Ford Expedition into the southbound lane and struck Graves' Ford Freestyle about 9:55 p.m.
"You can drive as safe as you want, but you always have to watch out for the other person," Sheriff Graves said. "I felt helpless. There was nowhere else to go."
Graves said he noticed the oncoming vehicle in his lane so he pulled as far over on the shoulder as he could without sliding into the adjacent ditch. Wolf veered the same way, Graves said.
Graves said he responded by moving back into the southbound lane and the oncoming sport utility vehicle mirrored his move.
A witness told Graves the accident was unavoidable at that point, Graves said.
The road was snow-covered and both drivers were doing below the posted 55 mph speed limit, Graves said.
"I'm glad it was snowing. If we were doing 55, it probably would have killed us," Graves said.
Graves was heading toward his Elkhorn home from his sister-in-law's house near Lauderdale Lakes. The family had been in Waukesha earlier that evening at a swim meet for Graves' other niece.
The kids in the back were pretty shaken up by the incident and sustained minor bruising, Graves said. Connie Graves has "some pretty nasty bruises" and was sore Saturday morning, Sheriff Graves said.
The sheriff himself is sore and bruised, but he should not miss any time off work due to the injuries. Both front airbags deployed and all were wearing their seatbelts.
"You go to many of these (accidents) in your career, but it's totally different when you and your family are involved," Grave said. "Cops want control of the situation and I didn't have any control."
Wolf was the only occupant in the SUV. She too was taken to the medical center for minor injuries.
The State Patrol is investigating the accident. An accident report was not immediately available.
If charges are pursued, they will not likely come from the Walworth County District Attorney's Office due to possible conflicts of interest. Connie Graves is an administrative secretary for the office and the accident involved a member of the sheriff's department.
Wolf was released from Walworth County Jail after posting the amount of the citation. She had no prior traffic arrests in the state, according to online court record.