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Families remember victims of van crash
(Published Monday, March 24, 2003 10:47:40 AM CST)
By Jennifer McKee/Gazette Staff
Copyright Gazette Xtra; March 24, 2003
Janesville, Wisconsin



Bonnie Lettman drove to a rest stop near Janesville on Sunday for a remembrance service almost four years after her daughter died in a seven-fatality van crash.

"It's hard, but it's something I have to do," she said.

Mourners, from left, Deanna Roberts, Nancy Ashton and Bonnie Lettman, comfort one other at a memorial service marking the fourth anniversary of the deaths of seven young people in an accident near Janesville. The van they were riding in crashed March 25, 1999, near the Interstate 90 rest stop north of Janesville. The young people were working for a magazine sales crew.
Dan Lassiter/Gazette Staff
Lettman's daughter, Amber, was a crew member for a subscription clearinghouse. She was working when the speeding van she was a passenger in crashed.

Amber was 16.

The driver of the van, Jeremy Holmes, had tried to switch places with a front-seat passenger when he saw a police car pull out behind the van. The van was going 81 mph when he lost control. The van rolled twice.

No one wore seat belts. Eleven were thrown from the van.

Five suffered serious injuries. One woman was not injured. Holmes, a habitual traffic offender, had minor injuries.

Lettman, a Madison resident, is angry at the system.

Holmes was sentenced to seven years in prison. The company owner, Choan Lane, was sentenced to two years in prison and 21 months in jail. Lane has been released.

Jesi Lettman, 12, places pinwheels at the van crash memorial. Her cousin, Amber, died in the crash.
Dan Lassiter/Gazette Staff
"I'm empty and cold inside. Those two keep surviving. My life has pretty much ended," Lettman said while standing near a memorial for the victims.

Nine people were at a rest stop near the accident site on Sunday afternoon.

They hugged and talked. They somberly added mulch, flowers, spinning wheels and balloons to the two small memorials.

Monica Forgues, 19, visits the site every year around the anniversary of the accident, which took place March 25, 1999.

"They (the victims) deserve to be recognized. They need to be remembered," she said.

"I just feel the need to come back at least once."

Forgues of Madison is paralyzed from the neck down because of the accident.

She has some advice for children who think about joining a sales crew similar to the one she worked for.

"Don't do it," she said.

Phil Ellenbecker brought roses and balloons to the service. His daughter, Malinda Turvey, died. She was 18.

Ellenbecker of Verona hopes the state and federal governments will pass laws that regulate the sales industry, which he said mistreats and exploits children.

He plans to meet with state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, on April 15 to talk about approving legislation.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, a Republican representing the 6th Congressional District, has introduced legislation that would, in part, say:

-- Children under 18 may not belong to traveling sales crews.

-- The U.S. Department of Labor could implement a licensing procedure for crew operators and require that operators keep job records and implement safety standards.

-- Crew employees would earn at least minimum wage. They would receive overtime pay for the overtime worked, which would ensure that workers are paid what they earn and are not treated as indentured servants.


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Janesville Wisconsin Van Crash March 25, 1999

March 23, 2003 Memorial Pictures - High Speed Connection

March 23, 2003 Memorial Pictures - Modem Connection

Amber Lettman, Bonnie Lettman, Nancy Ashton, Monica Forgues, Marshall Roberts, Deanna Roberts, Malinda Turvey, Phil Ellenbecker, Crystal McDaniel, Cory Hanson, Peter Christman, Joseph Wild, Jeremy Holmes, Choan Lane, Karleen Hillery, janesville wisconsin, dedicated memorial, van accident, van crash, traffic death, selling magazines, door to door sales crew, traveling sales crews, traveling magazine sales crew, direct sales, dangerous teen job, traveling sales recruitment, slave labor, sweatshops, traveling salesmen, traveling magazine sales crew, crimes against teens, crimes against youth, selling magazines door to door, abused children, abused teens, exploited teens, teen labor, fatal van accident, fatal van crash, magazine publishers, magazine clearinghouse, silent killer of teens and young adults, national tragedy


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