Charges unlikely in the death of a Shelby Firefighter


December 15th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber says while an investigation is still underway in connection with a single-vehicle accident that claimed the life of a Shelby Firefighter on I-80 in September, it does not appear the driver of the vehicle will face any charges. The Iowa State Patrol is beginning to wrap up its investigation into the crash, during which firefighter Michael Collins died, as he was directing traffic around an accident on Interstate 80, near Shelby. Wilber told the Omaha World-Herald, that unless the report on the investigation shows that the driver of the car, 43-year old David L. Thies, of Ames, Iowa, did something reckless, which authorities do not expect, the only thing he’ll likely get, is a traffic ticket.

The 41-year old Collins, was killed September 18th, as he was standing in the left lane of I-80 directing traffic. The Iowa State Patrol says a Honda Accord driven by Thies, went around slowed traffic and struck Collins. Matt Wilber said he is awaiting the results of the State Patrol’s more detailed technical investigation, to be completed in the next few weeks, before determining if any charges will be filed.

Collins’ family hopes something turns up. They think something needs to be done. One of his brothers, 36-year old Al Fenderson, told the paper “To me, that’s just not something you just write somebody a ticket for, especially when you take somebody’s life. There needs to be some sort of punishment besides the ticket.”

But according to Pott County Attorney Matt Wilber, an overtly reckless act — such as drunken driving or drag racing — is necessary in order to file a charge like motor vehicle homicide. Neither of those instances can be proven in this case, he says. The accident that claimed Collins’ life marked the second time Thies had been involved in a fatal crash.

In 1988, he was riding a motorcycle near Axtell, Neb., when it crashed in an incident authorities said involved alcohol. Thies’ passenger, 20-year old Gina Pearson, of Kearney, was killed. Thies served 17 months for motor vehicle homicide, according to Nebraska Department of Correctional Services records.

Wilber said he was aware of the incident but said it has no bearing on the Collins investigation.