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July 29, 2014 | 02:35 PMBLOOMFIELD — It’s been more than a month since Grant Stier was thrown from the seat of his motorcycle to the asphalt on Clover Road.
On Saturday, June 28, Grant was riding his bike on the winding, isolated backroad when witnesses say a Dodge Stratus — which was being driven by a suspected drunken driver with four children in the car — failed to follow one of the road’s curves and slammed into Stier’s motorcycle.
“’I remember slowing down for the curve, and seeing her headlights come right at me. I even gave her extra room. I was way over on the side, but she wasn’t turning,’” Carolyn Stier said, recalling her son’s memory of the accident.
Earlier that night, Stier had picked up his motorcycle from a storage unit, and his girlfriend Sarah Bahr and her sister, Amanda Bahr, were following him home. After seeing the crash, Amanda dialed 911.
The Bahrs told police that a woman, who appeared to be intoxicated, with blond hair wearing a pink top stepped out of the car’s passenger seat. She took a look at the badly injured 22-year-old Lake Geneva man and went back to the car. The vehicle then reportedly fled.
The first officer who arrived on the scene, Bloomfield Police Officer Jeremy Ruby, reported that Grant was conscious and speaking but was seriously injured. Ruby also knew that Stier’s left arm was broken “because it was facing the opposite direction.”
“He is still experiencing a lot of pain throughout his body,” his mother, Carolyn said last week. “There hasn’t been a lot of progress.”
Ruby, a seven-year department veteran, has responded to a number of serious crashes and thought Grant’s injuries could be life-threatening, Bloomfield Police Chief Steve Cole said.
Ruby and medical personal helped place Grant into an ambulance where he was transported to an area hospital. Grant was later flown Flight for Life to Aurora Summit Hospital.
Carolyn said her son is bedridden as he waits for his wounds to heal. She listed a laundry list of broken bones that her son suffered as a result of the crash.
“He is basically a rag doll waiting to heal,” Carolyn said. “Who’s to know that he isn’t going to have the effects from these injuries for the rest of his life.”
Amanda provided police dispatch with a vehicle registration, and the owner came back as 38-year-old Tanya M. O’Neil of Genoa City.
Genoa City Police Officer Jeff Sperandeo was sent to O’Neil’s residence and waited for her to return home. He located her vehicle, which had sustained “moderate front end damage,” according to Ruby’s report.
Sperandeo held O’Neil until Ruby could arrive on the scene.
“O’Neil advised she was driving from Pamela Bockelmann’s boyfriend’s house. O’Neil advised a motorcycle had pulled out right in front of her,” Ruby’s police report states. “O’Neil advised she pulled over and a woman came out in front of them. O’Neil advised the woman looked panicked, but then she seemed like everything was no big deal. O’Neil advised she then left.”
Ruby reported that he could smell alcohol on O’Neil, and she admitted to having two drinks, according to police reports. He then performed field sobriety tests, which she reportedly failed. Ruby also performed a portable Breathalyzer test on O’Neil, which came back at 0.159. The legal limit is 0.08.
Ruby then went to the vehicle and made contact with the four children who were in the back seat at the time of the crash. Police spoke to a 15-year-old, two 13-year-olds and a 10-year-old.
“Could you imagine what those kids felt when they saw Grant get ejected from his motorcycle,” Carolyn said. “The (post-traumatic stress) alone would have been enough for them to have nightmares, I feel. The girlfriend, who saw it all happen, and her sister could hardly speak about it when they came to the hospital. When (Sarah) came to the hospital she was extremely scared and was beside herself. It just seemed so surreal to her.”
Police also made contact with the vehicle’s adult passenger, Bockelmann, a blond who wore a pink top. Bockelmann was arrested at the scene for a probation hold. Her blood alcohol level was 0.257. She is scheduled for a probation review hearing on Aug. 11.
In Walworth County Circuit Court, O’Neil has been charged with five felonies, four counts of operating while intoxicated, causing injury with a minor child in the vehicle and a misdemeanor count of hit and run. If convicted of all counts, she faces up to 8 1/2 years imprisonment.
O’Neil’s attorney, Mick Sellergren of Lake Geneva, didn’t return a message seeking comment.
Since the crash
As bad as Grant’s injuries are, the situation could have been worse. Grant was wearing his helmet at the time of the crash, and one of the police officers told Carolyn that the “jaw part (of the helmet) was just shaved, just gouged.”
Carolyn said she is also grateful that Sarah and Amanda were driving behind her son.
“Thank God that they were there. The desolation of that road and the darkness, had they not seen this happen, she would have left the scene and he would have bled out. The size of the gapping hole in his ankle had to be about the size of a coffee cup saucer...Not only that, but he was laying in the middle of the road and a lot of cars - because it’s not lighted in that area - could have driven over his body and that would have killed him,” Carolyn said. “Had they not been there, would she have had the heart to stay?”
Carolyn said the lack of accountability for those who get behind the wheel while intoxicated is frustrating.
“The police officers and the courts, their hands are tied in how you can punish someone. That’s what makes me the most upset,” she said. “People are not held accountable for the damage they do.”
She added that Grant’s medical bills are expensive, and insurance won’t cover it all.
“Basically in the state of Wisconsin you can nearly kill somebody and if they aren’t carrying insurance, or if it’s very minimal, it doesn’t begin to cover your medical needs and you are just left at the mercy with whatever the state will pay for.”
Cole, who was referring to drunken driving crashes in general and not specifically to the O’Neil case, said drunken driving crashes have an emotional toll on his officers.
“I do believe that sometimes officers may experience a greater emotional toll when an officer responds to an alcohol-related crash. A responding officer will undoubtedly feel empathy for the victims involved in an alcohol-related crash,” Cole said. “A responding officer may also feel frustration since these types of crashes are so easily avoidable simply by an impaired person making the right decision not to drive. This frustration arises because there are so many different options available which would prevent a potential life-changing or life-ending crash from occurring such as designating a driver, summoning a cab, stay at a hotel, etc... Through planning and making the right decisions, a person who is going to be drinking could save lives including their own simply by not getting behind the wheel.”
For Carolyn, her son’s injuries, the court system and the medical expenses aren’t the only sources of frustration. She recently attended one of O’Neil’s court hearings and sat behind her in the courtroom gallery.
“She made the comment (to her attorney) when they were trying to reschedule her court dates that she wanted to get it over with as soon as possible,” Carolyn said.
“We thought ‘Are you kidding me?’ As if you are the victim in all this.”