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Police Department Press Releases

Posted on: September 27, 2023

Update on South Syene Road Fatality Crash

FBPD Media Release

Incident Date: 1/3/2023

Release Date: 9/27/2023

Incident number: FP23-00129

Prepared By: Lt. Edward Hartwick

Details: 

Due to significant public interest and requests for additional information related to the January 3, 2023, South Syene Road fatality crash, the Fitchburg Police Department has prepared the following investigation summary.

On January 3, 2023, Fitchburg officers responded to a vehicle versus pedestrian traffic crash on South Syene Road, just north of Argus Lane.  The pedestrian, Beth Steffen, died from injuries sustained in the crash.

As part of the investigation, the Fitchburg Police Department requested assistance from the Wisconsin State Patrol Technical Reconstruction Unit (T.R.U.). The State Patrol assisted with a forensic map of the crash scene, a mechanical examination of the vehicle, and an examination of the vehicle’s electronic data. The final report from the Wisconsin State Patrol was received in June.

Following a review of the Wisconsin State Patrol report and other components of the investigation conducted by the Fitchburg Police Department, it was determined: 

  • The crash was reported around 6:38 a.m.; conditions included darkness, light rain, and a wet road, with temperatures around 31 degrees.
  • The pedestrian was crossing South Syene Road mid-block, just north of Argus Lane, walking two dogs. She was wearing dark clothing with no reflective elements or accessories.
  • The vehicle, a 2006 Chevrolet Impala, driven by a 24-year-old Fitchburg man, was traveling southbound on South Syene Road, where the speed limit is posted at 35 m.p.h.
  • The driver struck the pedestrian and the two dogs while they were in the roadway, attempting to cross South Syene Road.
  • Based on a forensic examination of the driver’s cell phone, there is no evidence to indicate the driver was using his phone before or at the time of the crash. The driver was on his way home from work and showed no signs of impairment.
  • An examination of electronic data retrieved from the vehicle indicated the driver was traveling 58 m.p.h. .5 seconds before impact.

Final reports and findings were routed to the Dane County District Attorney’s Office for review at the end of June. Following a review and stakeholder meetings, the District Attorney’s Office determined criminal charges would not be filed in the incident.   

Based on the investigation, the driver was issued a municipal citation for speeding in late August, with a court date in September.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM THE CITY OF FITCHBURG 

Over the last several years, the area adjacent to South Syene Road has experienced a significant increase in residential development. In response to resident concerns and the changes in the surrounding area, the speed limit on this portion of South Syene Road was lowered from 45 m.p.h. to 35 m.p.h. in 2020.  

The road has been identified for comprehensive improvements, including elements to address pedestrian and bicycle connectivity and safety. Reconstruction of the project area, which includes South Syene Road from McCoy Road to Aurora Avenue, began in 2022 and is scheduled for completion in 2025. As part of the project, speed display signs were installed on South Syene Road in March 2023.

For more information on the project: https://www.fitchburgwi.gov/144/Engineering-Construction

 UPDATED RELEASE (SECOND)

Incident Date: 1/3/2023

Release Date: 1/10/2023

Incident number: FP23-00129

Prepared By: Lt. Edward Hartwick

Details: 

The investigation into last Tuesday’s fatal pedestrian traffic crash remains open and active. Investigators have determined the crash occurred on South Syene Road just north of Argus Lane. 

Potential contributing factors and evidence collected from the scene remain under review and analysis. The Wisconsin State Patrol Technical Reconstruction Unit continues to assist with the investigation.  

Last week, the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office formally confirmed the identity of the pedestrian killed in the crash as Beth Steffen, 56, of Fitchburg.

No additional information is available for release at this time.

Investigators are still looking to speak with anyone who may have witnessed the crash. 

Witnesses can contact the Fitchburg Police Department at (608)270-4300 to speak with a detective. 

 

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