Ride with deputy not linked to fatal crash
ELKHORN A Walworth County sheriff's deputy gave an Elkhorn man a ride home early Friday morning, but the ride was not related to the man's fatal crash 14 hours later, a sheriff's official said Wednesday.
Deputy Robert Wierenga gave Brad L. Zimmerman, 43, of Elkhorn, a ride home early Friday morning. Zimmerman died 14 hours later in a head-on crash on Highway 50 near Lake Lawn Resort.
"Deputy Robert Wierenga came upon Zimmermann at 3:44 a.m. Friday on Interstate 43," Capt. Scott McClory said. "Deputy Wierenga reported to dispatch that Zimmerman was stopped with a flat tire and appeared to be having some mobility problems."
Wierenga told Delavan Police Lt. G.J. Strohm that he initially suspected Zimmerman was intoxicated or under the influence of some substance, but he later determined Zimmerman's problem was physical, McClory said.
"Deputy Wierenga talked to Zimmerman and had him in his squad car," McClory said. "It was obvious that the subject was not under the influence but had leg problems and other physical issues. Zimmerman called for a ride, but when he could not contact anyone, Deputy Wierenga took him home."
Wierenga cleared the incident with dispatch at 4:05 a.m. Friday. The fatal crash was reported at 6:14 p.m. Friday.
"News reports that said Zimmerman got a ride home from a deputy hours before the fatal crash are somewhat misleading," McClory said. "There is a more than 14-hour gap between those two incidents. The bottom line is we didn't take home a drunk who got back in a car and died in an accident."
Delavan police reports indicate Zimmerman got a ride back to his car on I-43 near Highway 14 on Friday evening from Todd E. Brunner of Elkhorn, who helped Zimmerman change the flat tire. Brunner said he followed Zimmerman back to Delavan and noticed him driving erratically before the fatal crash.
Zimmerman was pronounced dead at 6:54 p.m. Friday at Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center. An autopsy has been ordered.
McClory's statements regarding Wierenga match Lt. Strohm's report.
"Deputy Wierenga stated that Zimmerman was staggering so much that Deputy Wierenga thought Zimmerman might be intoxicated," Strohm wrote in his report. "He asked Zimmerman, but Zimmerman stated that he hasn't had any alcohol in two years.
"Zimmerman did tell the deputy that he had medical issues and then stated, ‘I'm glad I pulled off the road before somebody got hurt.'
"When Zimmerman could not reach anyone to come and get him, Deputy Wierenga gave him a ride back to the Ludwell Estates Trailer Court where Zimmerman resided," Strohm wrote.
The driver of the other vehicle in the crash, Jose Aranda, 46, of Lake Geneva, and four passengers in his car were treated for injuries, including 22-year-old Nancy Aranda Bonilla, who was transported by helicopter for treatment.