Connelly Family Friend Believes Blocked Stop Sign May Be To Blame For Fatal Crash

By Katie Wiedemann, KCRG-TV9

Comments: (563) 583-9999; katie.wiedemann@kcrg.com

EPWORTH, Iowa — A family friend of the truck driver who ran a stop sign, killing four Dubuque County teens says a blocked stop sign might be to blame for that crash.

Now that friend is asking people to look at the situation from the driver’s perspective.

The Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department says on Saturday Joe Connelly, 24 ran a stop sign at Pleasant Grove and Hartbecke Roads.

Connelly’s pickup crashed into the John Deere Gator carrying four 14-year-old boys; Mitchell Kluesner, Bryce Wilwert, Nicholas Kramer and Sean Kenneally. All four died.

Connelly’s neighbor, Suzette Smith, says she took photos from the same perspective as what Connelly would have seen right before the accident.

She says the back of a no passing zone signs blocks a driver’s view of the stop sign.

The Sheriff’s Department says they investigating that possibility, but they encouraged members of the media to take a look at the signs.

Investigators say on Saturday Connelly was driving southbound on Hartbecke Road.

About 400 feet from the intersection there is a yellow sign that reads “stop ahead.”

When continuing to travel southbound a driver can first spot the red stop sign at about 300 feet from the intersection.

But as a driver gets closer, that stop sign eclipses with the back of a “no passing zone” sign. For about three seconds, the driver cannot see the stop sign.

The stop sign comes back into view when the driver is about 100 feet from the intersection.

Smith said, “We really want people to know he wasn’t a young kid, just out on a Saturday afternoon who ran a stop sign. I think there is a side to it that maybe he didn’t have the chance to stop at the stop sign. “

Smith says she understands there was a visible “stop ahead” sign and Connelly did in fact run a stop sign. She understands the pending charges Connelly likely faces.

As for those charges, the Sheriff’s Office will only say it still is investigating and won’t speculate when charges could be filed.

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