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Medical condition may have led to New Berlin crash, police say

Thomas and Catherine Wagner of New Berlin, shown here in a file image from WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) from a story that aired in 2003, were killed in a two-car crash Sunday. Thomas Wagner’s sister, Patricia White, also was killed.

Thomas and Catherine Wagner of New Berlin, shown here in a file image from WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) from a story that aired in 2003, were killed in a two-car crash Sunday. Thomas Wagner’s sister, Patricia White, also was killed. Photo By WTMJ-TV/Channel 4

Feb. 13, 2012

A medical condition may have caused the crash that killed three people and injured two Sunday in New Berlin, police said Monday.

Police said neither alcohol nor drugs is expected to have played a role in the crash. They also released the identities of the three people killed.

Thomas Wagner and his wife, Catherine Wagner, both 49 and from New Berlin, and Thomas' sister, Patricia White, 54, of Milwaukee, were killed at 9:43 a.m. in a two-car crash at the intersection of S. Sunny Slope Road and W. Glencove Parkway, police said in a news release. Thomas' brother, William Wagner, 52, of New Berlin, who was a passenger in the car, was transported by Flight for Life to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa.

"Sunday, my son, daughter and daughter-in-law were killed in a terrible car accident," Marilyn Mueller Erdman said on her Facebook page Monday afternoon. "My other son is currently in ICU but is expected to make a full recovery. Please lift up our family in prayer during this horrific time."

Since April 2010, William Wagner has worked as an outreach therapist and counselor at Family Service of Racine, where he conducts therapy with individuals, couples and families, and facilitates anger management groups. He also conducts outreach therapy at two Racine County veteran's facilities, according to his Facebook page.

The accident happened when a 36-year-old New Berlin man driving north on S. Sunny Slope Road in a Chrysler 300 left the road to the right and struck a Ford Focus wagon driven by Thomas Wagner that was stopped at the stop sign at Glencove Parkway, facing west, according to police. The Chrysler continued over a dip on the north side of Glencove Parkway and Sunny Slope and careened between two pine trees 30 to 40 feet into a yard on the northeast side.

Those who were killed were all in the stopped vehicle.

"This tragedy claimed the lives of three family members of one of our students in the school district," the New Berlin School District said in a news release Monday. "The school district has been working closely with the New Berlin Police Department, and staff members are working collectively to support our students and their families. The district is also encouraging those who may need additional support to utilize the district's student/family assistance program. Our thoughts are with the families of those involved in this accident."

The couple has a daughter.

The four were on their way to a birthday party hosted by Erdman at the Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort Atkinson when the accident occurred, according to WTMJ-TV (Channel 4).

Timothy Christian, a family member of those killed in the crash, posted on his Facebook page Sunday night:

"Please pray for the Wagner family/friends and all those associated. I just lost two aunts and an uncle, while another lies in the hospital around the Milwaukee, WI area. However children now have to live their lives without their parents and my heart goes out to them the most. I'm broken, I'm numb, and I wish I could be there for everyone . . . Sigh . . . Prayers needed."

Police said the man who drove the vehicle that struck Wagner's car was transported to Waukesha Memorial Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries. Police initially said a passenger in his car also was taken to the hospital but clarified Monday that the man was driving alone.

"We are investigating the possibility that the surviving driver suffered from a medical condition at the time of the accident," the police news release said.

Police said the Waukesha County district attorney's office is reviewing the case, and that the investigation is ongoing.

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