Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

August 28, 2013

No charges planned in deadly van wreck near Vandalia

ST. LOUIS — A New Jersey man behind the wheel of a van that careened off a southern Illinois freeway near Vandalia, killing five passengers, had no alcohol or illegal drugs in his system and won't face charges, a prosecutor said Wednesday in declaring the wreck a tragic accident.

Fayette County State's Attorney Joshua Morrison said blood samples drawn from Malcolm Purnell after the May 20 wreck on Interstate 70 detected only drugs given to him while he was hospitalized for injuries sustained in the crash.

Illinois State Police already have ticketed Purnell, 45, for driving with a suspended license and improper lane usage, and his next scheduled court appearance on that is Sept. 30.

"This was a tragic accident. That's exactly the way I'd put it," Morrison told The Associated Press, noting that there's no evidence the wreck was caused by anything "malicious" or intentional by Purnell, of Camden, N.J.

Purnell has declined repeated AP requests for an interview.

The 11 occupants of the 15-passenger van were members of an evangelical Christian church returning from a weeklong international conference in Ontario, Calif., near Los Angeles, when the vehicle inexplicably swerved off of the interstate 70 miles east of St. Louis and flipped several times, ejecting nine of the men. The five people killed died at the scene.

Purnell told investigators from his hospital bed he was unsure if he nodded off behind the wheel, acknowledging he was fatigued after driving for about six hours, according to an Illinois State Police's accident report the AP obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to the accident report, Purnell said the men left California the day before the wreck and had been driving non-stop back to the East Coast, rotating drivers and sleeping when not behind the wheel.

Text Only
Local News
  • Naam.jpg Opinion: Plight of Christians in the Middle East

    This Saturday and Sunday millions of Christians around the world will go to church to celebrate Easter.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • tony- car collection 1.jpg A passion for wheels leads to a world-class vehicle collection

    Since the late 1970s, Arthur Trost has bought, sold, collected or restored 69 vehicles. He has kept 10 of them, many from the '50s, an era he remembers fondly.

    April 19, 2014 3 Photos

  • BRIANBLOOM-300x200.jpg Opinion: My Easter Prayer

    It was always our most solemn of holidays. Christmas was chaotic, the Christian aspect always front and center yet overshadowed by five boys anxiously awaiting the opening of gifts.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • IMG_5943.jpg Cross takes on red glow for Good Friday

    The Cross at the Crossroads hosted a Good Friday prayer service at the Welcome Center.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Investigator wants tougher ethics laws for legislators SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- Job recommendations and university application referrals from Illinois lawmakers should be tracked and publicized after clout-related scandals at the University of Illinois and the Metra transit agency, the General Assembly's top

    April 19, 2014

  • Medicaid paid $12M for dead Illinoisans CHICAGO (AP) -- The Illinois Medicaid program paid an estimated $12 million for medical services for people listed as deceased in other state records, according to an internal state government memo. The memo dated Friday, which The Associated Press o

    April 19, 2014

  • 4-19 cross walk.jpg Church goers carry cross for Good Friday

    For Effingham resident Adrian Guzman, carrying a cross across Effingham is more than symbolism. 

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Two in hospital after chase with St. Elmo police

    Two individuals were sent to the hospital after a chase with a St. Elmo Police officer.

    April 18, 2014

  • tony- sigel 1 Sigel St. Michael breaks ground TONY HUFFMAN Daily News Want to Help? Donations are still being accepted for the addition. Donations may be mailed, dropped off at the parish offices, or placed in collection baskets. A donation wall in the renovated parish center will feature a "Giv

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meth suspect sentenced to 54 months NEWTON -- A man accused of cooking methamphetamine in a vehicle with a child present was sentenced in Jasper County Court Thursday. Charles "Chase" L. Shroyer, 23, was sentenced to 54 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of methamphet

    April 18, 2014

AP Video

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.