Journal Times staff and The Associated Press
Four women co-workers on their way to lunch were killed on Tuesday when they were thrown from a car after it struck a school bus in the 6300 block of W. Ryan Road in Franklin, just north of the Racine County line.
The victims were identified as Nora Petitpren, 52, and Mary Lenhart, 64, both of Franklin, Ann Nagy, 38, of Waukesha, and Valerie Kerr, 27, of West Allis.
They died when they were ejected from a black Honda Accord in the 11:36 a.m. crash, according to a Franklin Police Department report.
A Flight for Life helicopter transported Sandra Herek, the 44-year-old driver of the car, to Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital where she was listed in critical condition Tuesday night.
School bus driver Virginia Sukowatey, 70, of West Allis, was taken to a West Allis hospital where she was treated for her injuries and released.
The four women who died and the driver of the car all worked for Carma Labs Inc., 5801 West Airways Ave. in Franklin, about six blocks from the accident site. The company manufactures Carmex lip balm.
Marion Woelbing, wife of Carma Laboratories vice president Donald Woelbing, said she had been told the five women were going out to lunch when the crash happened. She said Herek had recently returned from vacation.
One young lady came back from a vacation trip to Hawaii, and they were going to celebrate her return, she said, describing the five as good friends.
No children were on the bus, which was en route to Southwood Glen Elementary School to pick up a load of kindergartners.
According to police, the car was traveling west on Ryan Road, by the Root River near 60th Street, when it crossed into the path of the bus. Witnesses said the car was traveling erratically before it collided with the bus.
Following the accident, authorities, including Racine County sheriffs deputies, rerouted traffic off Highway 100 (Ryan Road) for nearly 2 hours.
Company employees were devastated when they learned of the crash while still at work, Marion Woelbing said, but her father-in-law, Alfred Woelbing, had gone to lunch with his minister, and the minister happened to return to the workplace with him. When they learned what had happened, the minister offered counseling for employees, she said