A truck driver blamed late-afternoon sun in his eyes for a crash that killed a 68-year-old grandmother of nine last month.
A police report, though, notes a broken or dirty windshield obscured the driver’s vision as he came upon the woman and her husband bicycling south on County Highway Z in Adams County.
The new information comes from Town of Rome Police reports based on interviews conducted shortly after Wayne Kobylski, of Mauston, drove his truck into Robert and Judy Gause, as they biked home from a neighbor’s house about 4 p.m. on Nov. 4.
Judy Gause died along the road a quarter-mile south of Alpine Dr. and within two miles of her home.
Robert Gause, who was physically uninjured, told the Wisconsin Bike Fed that he heard the truck behind them as they pedaled south, and felt it pass “literally within inches of me.
“That’s when my nightmare started,” he said. “I heard a big boom and saw her flying. I ran over to her. I saw the whole thing and that’s part of the nightmare and what I’ve been going through.
“I have been thinking, why didn’t he hit me and not her.”
Kobylski also struggled to comprehend, according to his statements to police on the scene.
Before Police Chief Jason Lauby began asking questions, Kobylski stated, “In my defense, you can see where the sun was.”
The 42-year-old truck driver said he never saw the Gauses ahead of him on the straight, flat roadway, and estimated his speed at 40 to 45 mph. The limit on that stretch of county highway is 55. Distraught, he repeated his complaint about the sun while having blood drawn at an area hospital.
A bus driver who arrived on the scene confirmed the sun would have been directly in the eyes of motorists heading south at the time of the crash.
Asked before the holidays about the driver’s comments, Bob Gause said the sun created no difficulty for him and his wife.
They were riding as far right as possible, near the white line that separates the paved road from the gravel shoulder. “There was no swerving,” he said.
The Gauses biked nearly every day, Bob Gause said, and often rode to a nearby park. On Nov. 4, they traveled north to visit with a friend building a new house near Wood County, where Highway Z includes a paved shoulder.
In their rural area, the Gauses have few options for enjoying their rides.
“We rode basically every day and you have to ride on roads,” he said. “Can’t go any other way.”
Police in the Town of Rome are waiting for a more-detailed crash analysis by the Wisconsin State Patrol before moving forward with any citations or charges against Kobylski. At this point, no citations have been issued.
Bob Gause said he had given little thought to the outcome. His life has been dominated by the huge hole left by the death of his best friend, a woman he met in high school and married 49 years ago.
“I’m dealing with it, not real well, but I have three kids and nine grandchildren,” he said. “I’m trying to do as much as I can. It’s Christmas, and I’m trying to do what she used to do, and I’m having a rough time doing it. This was her time.”
The circumstances of Judy Gause’s death are reminiscent of the crash that killed Jeff Littmann in Waukesha County on Oct. 1, 2010. A motorist, Kyle Dieringer, blamed the sun in his eyes after he hit Littmann and his riding partner, Lauren Jensen, on Wisconsin Ave. in Nashotah.
Attorney General Brad Schimel reviewed the case while serving as Waukesha County District Attorney, and declined to issue criminal charges. Instead, authorities issued three traffic citations and Dieringer paid $400 in fines for driving too fast for conditions and failing to provide three feet of clearance while passing a bicyclist.