Thursday, September 07, 2006

Six other dead kids

Yesterday former Illinois Governor George Ryan was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison on corruption charges.

Have you heard about this?

It all started back in 1994.

Six children in the Willis family were killed when a loose piece of steel fell off an 18-wheeler that struck their minivan causing the gas tank to explode.

This is how it was described on ABC’s 20/20 during a segment aired back in 1999:

“Asleep and strapped into their seat belts, five of the children, including 6-week-old Pete, died in a matter of moments while their father watched helplessly.”

The sixth child, Benny, died from burns in the hospital later that night.
The driver of the truck, Ricardo Guzman, ignored other trucker's attempts to warn him about the loose piece of steel.

Turns out, Guzman was involved in six other accidents in the two years prior to the one that wiped out most of the Willis family. He couldn't speak English, either. Truck drivers need to be able to speak and read fluent English under federal law.

He had no business driving that truck. And those kids didn't have to die.
The accident launched an investigation that eventually would become the Licenses for Bribes scandal – a scheme in which thousands of unqualified applicants were able to receive commercial driver’s licenses by paying bribes to George Ryan’s campaign fund. George Ryan ran the secretary of state’s office at the time and later became governor of Illinois.

The jury that convicted Ryan earlier this year also found him guilty of racketeering for trying to quash the investigation into the licensing scheme that killed the Willis children.
“This is the saddest day of my life,” said George Ryan yesterday after his sentencing.

Then he went to dinner with family and friends at a Greek restaurant on Halsted in the west Loop.
Scott and Janet Willis – the parents of the six children – will never forget the saddest day of their lives when they watched their kids die in a burning minivan along I-94.

Six and a half years of Ryan’s life versus a lifetime without six children.

Six and a half years in a minimum-security prison isn’t justice.

It’s a joke.

And I’m disgusted to be saying it again this week: Those kids deserved better.
I am listening to: A very quiet house
I am reading: Steinberg in the Sun-Times
And I am: Disgusted