February 08, 2002
Two Killed in Collision with Police Car
by Ken Kosky, Times
PORTAGE -- A man and his girlfriend were killed Thursday morning when their
compact car collided with a police squad car that was responding to a disturbance
The crash, which occurred shortly before 3 a.m. at U.S. 6 and Swanson Road,
left the officer with only minor injuries. The officer, Dennis Bailey, 29, was
taken to St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, where he was treated for a shoulder
injury and released.
The driver of the other car, a Ford Escort, was Timothy W. Munchenburg, 24,
of Hobart. He was taken to Porter Memorial Hospital, but died of internal chest
injuries. His passenger, Toni Paxson, 23, of Portage, was airlifted to Christ
Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., but she also died of massive internal injuries.
Police said they did not know if Munchenburg and Paxson were wearing their
seat belts.The fatal accident has shocked the families of both victims, said
Munchenburg's sister, Jennifer. She said Munchenburg, an employee of U.S. Steel,
and Paxson, an intensive care nurse at Portage Community Hospital, had been
dating for about six years. She said they enjoyed hanging out at the house and
activities like shopping or going to the beach and riding Jet skis in the summer.
The crash that killed the couple occurred while they were eastbound on U.S.
6 and the officer was westbound on U.S. 6, heading to a report of a man causing
a disturbance and trying to get into a home in the 1300 block of Camelot Manor.
The suspect in the disturbance was later arrested by another officer.Bailey
was in a fully marked squad car, but did not have his emergency lights or siren
activated while en route to the call. While the officer was westbound, Munchenburg
turned in front of him to go from eastbound U.S. 6 onto northbound Swanson Road,
according to Indiana State Police.
Both drivers had the green light, but Munchenburg should have yielded to the
officer before turning, police said. In addition, tests showed Munchenburg's
blood alcohol level was over legal limit, police said."We believe the primary
factor is him (Munchenburg) failing to yield," said Indiana State Police
Sgt. Ann Wojas."But a contributing factor is going to be alcohol , and
we believe speed may be a factor with the officer.
"The intersection was closed for several hours while officers took measurements
and arranged for the cars to be removed. Since a Portage officer was involved
in the crash, state police are investigating. Wojas said the accident reconstruction
may take several weeks or months to complete.
Cpl. John Ryan, Portage police spokesman, said the officer involved in the
crash will be required to meet with a counselor, as is required by department
policy. He will also be given time off if he requests it. Ryan added that the
officer, a two-year veteran, had no prior crashes.
He said officers are supposed to activate their lights and sirens when responding
to an emergency, but officers have discretion about what constitutes an emergency.
Funeral arrangements for Munchenburg are pending at Rees Funeral Home in Hobart.
Paxson's family said her funeral arrangements are also pending.Porter County
Coroner Roger Kleist said Thursday's crash was the first fatal accident in Porter
County in 2002.Ken Kosky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 462-5151,