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Collision Claims Life, Injures Two Teens

By Staff | Aug 19, 2008

WEST BEND – A T-bone crash at the intersection of two gravel roads claimed the life of a West Bend man early Saturday morning. The Iowa State Patrol has identified the victim as18-year old Christopher Gearhart, a passenger in one of the vehicles.

According to Troopers Lynn Olsen of the Iowa State Patrol’s District Five office in Cherokee, the crash occurred around 12:18 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the intersection of 485 Street and 570 Avenue, just southwest of West Bend. A 1999 Ford pickup driven by 17-year old Wyatt Wirtz of Mallard was westbound on 485 Street and failed to stop at a stop sign at 570 Avenue, and struck a 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by 17-year old Melinda Bruellman of Ottosen in the intersection. Gearhart, a passenger in the Bruellman vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene by authorities.

The West Bend and Emmetsburg Ambulance services transported Melinda Bruellman and Wyatt Wirtz to the Palo Alto County hospital for treatment of injuries. Both were later transferred by air ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Sioux City. Wyatt Wirtz was released from the hospital on Sunday. Melinda Bruellman remains in critical condition, according to Mercy Hospital officials as of Monday.

The Iowa State Patrol was assisted at the scene by the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office, West Bend Fire Department and West Bend and Emmetsburg Ambulance Services of the Palo Alto County Hospital.

The State Patrol is continuing its investigation into the accident. According to Lt. Darrin Fratzke of the State Patrol’s District Six office in Spencer, charges are possible, pending the outcome of the investigation into the crash.

Funeral services for Christopher Gearhart are planned for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Aug. 19, at the West Bend-Mallard High School.