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HAMBURG PEDESTRIAN DEATH: Family seeks answers about investigation and charges

Wille Thorp was a community volunteer and leader for decades
Posted at 6:46 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 19:46:56-04

HAMBURG, Iowa (KMTV) — In January, 77-year-old Wille Thorp was struck and killed by a vehicle on Main Street in Hamburg. His daughter, Nicole Martin and Melissa Bergantzel have questions about the investigation and charges.

  • An active member of the Hamburg community for decades, Thorp had just been re-elected to city council when he was killed while crossing the street; leaving behind a family, including a great-granddaughter he'll never meet.
  • Nobody doubts Nancy Bartles, also 77, is responsible for the deadly crash on January 25. She was charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian and received a fine of $1,135.
  • "I think she's getting off very easy," said daughter, Nicole Martin.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

In January, 77-year-old Wille Thorp was struck and killed by a vehicle here, on Main Street, in Hamburg.

I'm your Southwest Iowa neighborhood reporter Katrina Markel.

I spoke with Wille's daughters, who question whether the county's sentence for the driver who hit their father was too lenient.

An active member of the Hamburg community for decades, Thorp had just been re-elected to city council when he was killed while crossing the street; leaving behind a family, including a great-granddaughter he'll never meet.

His daughters' grief made worse by feelings that justice has escaped them.

"I think she's getting off very easy," said daughter, Nicole Martin.

Nobody doubts Nancy Bartles, also 77, is responsible for the deadly crash on January 25.

She was charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian and received a fine of $1,135.

Initially, a judge suspended her license for six months, the maximum time allowed.

But, after she provided documentation that she is a caregiver for a disabled daughter, the magistrate declined to impose the license suspension.

"I would like to have her never drive again ... I just don't think she should drive. Ever again," said daughter, Melissa Bergantzel.

Thorp's daughters still have questions about the investigation, including why Bartles was not tested for any substance misuse.

"I'm also disappointed in them, they did not do any testing," Bergantzel said.

Defense attorney Mallory Hughes says law enforcement can use their own discretion at the scene.

"Not every single accident gives law enforcement the ability to start testing for drugs and alcohol,” said Hughes, an attorney with Berry Law in Omaha. “So, it could be that law enforcement arrived on scene: there was no bloodshot watery eyes, odor of alcohol, dilated pupils, anything that would be indicative of anytime of drug or alcohol use."

A lawyer for the Thorp family requested in a letter that the Fremont county attorney consider a more serious charge.

In a statement to KMTV, County Attorney Peter Johnson said, in part: "There was no evidence of impairment, mobile phone use, excessive speed, recklessness, or any other aggravating factors that would have led to higher charges that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

"It's awful ... He was healthy, so, to get a phone call that he'd been ran over, you never understand it. You never understand it."

Now, the family is pursuing a civil lawsuit against Bartles.

On Main Street in Hamburg, I'm your southwest Iowa neighborhood reporter, Katrina Markel.