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'It was extremely traumatic': State Senator's interview with investigator on fatal crash

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Janet Bewley

ASHLAND (WKOW) - As State Senator Janet Bewley awaits a decision from a district attorney on whether anyone will be criminally charged in connection to a fatal crash she was involved in, Bewley tells investigators her driving was safe.

Authorities said Alyssa Ortman, 27, and her daughter Khalessi, 5, were killed when their car collided with Bewley's car on July 22 in Ashland and then spun into an SUV. The victim's family members have said the mother and daughter traveled from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to visit relatives.

During an August interview with State Patrol Sgt. Michael Marquardt, audio of the conversation includes Bewley telling the investigator she worked on being composed before the meeting, as what happened in the crash was so overwhelming.

"It was extremely traumatic," Bewley said.

Bewley also said any ill effects of cataract eye surgery she underwent the day before the collision were gone on the day of the crash. Bewley said there was no issue with her eyesight.

She also said she was being interviewed over the phone by a reporter at the time of the collision. Bewley said she was participating in the interview hands-free, and her driving was not affected by the ongoing interview.

State Patrol officials announced last month Ortman's car was travelling 100 miles per hour. Even with that speed involved by one of the drivers, Ashland County District Attorney David Meany said he's come to no decision on whether Bewley or the other surviving driver will be criminally charged.

"I'm still reviewing the investigative reports and awaiting the remaining toxicology report," Meany said.

Bewley told the State Patrol investigator she was sober at the time of the midday collision and had only used prescribed medications prior to driving.

Bewley said she properly checked for traffic prior to initiating a turn prior to the crash.

"I barely moved a foot and 'Pow!' I get hit," Bewley said. "My first thought: Where in the hell did that car come from?"

Bewley said she was not hurt and said her vehicle's airbags had deployed. She said she left her car even before emergency responders arrived.

"And I tried to find someone who could answer, 'Are they okay?' " she said.

Marquardt reminded Bewley and her attorney he was limited in what he could share about the State Patrol's investigation. "This is a criminal event until otherwise disproven," he said.

At the time of the collision, Bewley was Senate Minority Leader. The democrat did not run for reelection after serving eight years in the senate and four previous years in the state assembly. The crash took place in her senate district. She'll leave the office in January.

Bewley faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the father of the child victim.