The driver of a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban truck was traveling in the wrong lane in a Saturday night crash that killed a Bloomer special education teacher, a report by the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office said.
The report stated that Chad A. Sommer, 36, of Bloomer was driving the truck eastbound in a westbound lane, leading to the crash at 9:46 p.m. on Highway 64 that killed Derek J. Thompson, 32, of Bloomer.
Thompson’s wife, Brittany J. Thompson, 28, is one of four injured passengers in the van who were hospitalized.
Derek Thompson, a graduate of Bloomer High School, started working in the school district in 2011.
“Mr. Thompson was an exceptional young man,” Superintendent Dr. Mary Randall said Monday. “He’s going to be very sadly missed.”
All one had to do was to gauge the mood at Bloomer Schools on Monday to see how greatly his loss affected people at the schools, Randall said.
She said a message about Thompson’s death was sent to parents Sunday evening, and another letter offering tips on how to cope with grief will also be sent, along with a listing of websites offering help.
On Monday a large number of counselors were available, along with members of a ministerial association, to help at the school.
Randall said the administration met with staff Sunday and again Monday, and a statement was read to students.
“He was an exceptional teacher who cared greatly for his students,” she said of Thompson.
Mona McMenamin didn’t know Derek Thompson personally, but knew what he did for one of his students, her grandson Parker LaRock.
“Patience is one thing that comes to mind, positive attitude and genuine caring,” McMenamin said of Thompson’s attributes.
“He was so positive when it might not be easy to be positive,” she said. “We are very thankful for all those things he’s done for Parker.”
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LaRock, a senior at Bloomer Senior High School, said Thompson has helped him.
“He helped out with the special ed. If I ever need something, he would try to help up as much as he could. And he was a nice guy,” LaRock said of Thompson.
The crash happened three-tenths of a mile east of 102nd Street.
“Passengers of (Thompson’s van) stated the operator of their vehicle was trying to avoid a collision by swerving into the eastbound lane before swerving back and attempting to drive into the ditch. (The van) was struck by (Sommer’s Suburban) on the front (driver's) side of the vehicle, causing severe damage to both,” the report said.
The sheriff’s office report said Sommer was wearing a shoulder and lap safety belt. He was listed as being trapped and extricated, and as having an incapacitating injury.
Listed as driver factors for Sommer were inattentive driving, driving left-of-center and failure to have control. Alcohol and drug tests were administered.
Hospitalized from the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country van Thompson was driving were: Brittany J. Thompson; Sandra L. Loew, 49, of Bloomer; Blaine R. Seibel, 24, of Minneapolis; and Jessica L. Kleinhans, 22, of Menomonie.
Loew, Seibel and Brittany Thompson were listed as having incapacitating injuries, while Kleinhaus was listed as having a non-incapacitating injury. Loew and Seibel were listed as being trapped and extricated.
The sheriff’s office report said Sommer was wearing a shoulder-and-lap safety belt. He was listed as being trapped and extricated and as having an incapacitating injury.
Derek Thompson was listed as wearing the shoulder and lap safety belt.
The sheriff’s office and the Wisconsin State Patrol are investigating the crash.
A campaign at www.gofundme.com has been set up for Thompson’s family, and as of mid-afternoon Monday more than 300 people had contributed $17,570 out of a $25,000 goal. The website says the couple have two children, Griffin and Willow.
Schriver-Thompson Funeral Home and Chippewa Valley Cremation Services in Bloomer is handling arrangements for Derek J. Thompson.
CORRECTION: Due to incorrect information provided to the Herald, an earlier version of this article contained a wrong description of how the crash occured. The Chippewa County Sheriff's department said a vehicle driven by Derek Thompson was hit by a vehicle driven by Chad Sommer in front driver's side of Thompson's vehicle.
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