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Police say Vinehout wasn't wearing seatbelt

  • Associated Press
  • January 8, 2014 - 10:11 AM

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout was not wearing a seatbelt during last month's crash that severely injured her arm and sidetracked her potential run for governor, according to state police.

Vinehout was sitting in the backseat of her 2008 Toyota Avalon when the Dec. 8 crash happened during unexpectedly heavy snowfall on Interstate 94 in Racine County, a Wisconsin State Patrol report said. There were multiple crashes in the area that day, including one that was fatal.

Vinehout underwent an eight-hour reconstructive surgery on her broken arm and continues to recover at home. Her husband, Douglas Kane, told Wisconsin State Journal (http://tiny.cc/e6fd9w ) that she will not be able to participate in next week's Senate floor session and there will be no imminent announcement on her political plans.

Vinehout has been considering running for governor. Former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive Mary Burke is the only announced Democratic candidate to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The State Patrol determined Vinehout's vehicle was headed east that morning when the driver, campaign volunteer Deborah Ross, swerved to avoid hitting stopped cars ahead. Vinehout's vehicle went off the road, through a ditch and then hit a state-owned fence.

The driver of another vehicle that went into the ditch said Vinehout's vehicle struck his before hitting the fence, but Ross told police she didn't remember that.

Wisconsin law requires all adults to wear seat belts or face $10 fines.

Ross and another passenger, campaign worker Elisabeth Donoghue, were wearing seatbelts. Vinehout was not ticketed for failure to wear hers, Kane said.

State Patrol Lt. James Kicmol said troopers don't always issue seat belt tickets in crashes, but he didn't know why that didn't happen in Vinehout's case.

Vinehout was headed to two campaign-related events in Kenosha and Racine, but they were canceled when she was taken to a hospital by ambulance after the crash.

© 2014 Star Tribune