Tama County


Just like apparently more than 10 percent of people STILL think Barack Obama is a Muslim/terrorist sympathizer, the rumor that Ronald Kitch meant to cause the wreck that tipped over the WindStar bus near Tama last week is baloney. Well, at least from what I can find.

Kitch, 79, simply doesn’t remember what happened, said Iowa State Patrol Trooper Eric Vanderwiel. He did not intentionally cross the center line, for suicidal or other purposes. It was purely accidental.

“I heard that rumor before I even got there,” Vanderwiel said. “I don’t know who started it, but it’s wrong.”

Things that are true are that Kitch’s house was slightly flooded, and he goes to the casino several times a week. At any rate, if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s this: People will believe what they want to believe, and hear what they want to hear.

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When I wrote my story in Friday’s paper about the car that crashed into the WindStar bus on Wednesday morning, I stuck to the facts. But no matter how I wrote the story, I knew people would try to blame Tama County Deputy Chad Hansen for not doing something to stop Ronald Kitch from driving. I usually never talk about how I feel in situations relating to my job. This time, I need to.

What could Hansen have done to prevent the bus crash? Even if Hansen had written Kitch a ticket for hitting the telephone pole, he still could have driven home. No one would be taken off the road unless their driving skills were clearly impaired. And, like Hansen told me, he didn’t see anything unusual about his driving. He followed him long enough to notice anything that could have been wrong. Kitch was simply tired. And who knows what influenced him in the second one? The Iowa State Trooper who handled the accident report said Kitch didn’t remember what happened. Like I wrote in my story, he was looking at his dog.

Law enforcement officers are always damned if they do, damned if they don’t, in my opinion. Someone, somewhere, will think they made the wrong decision, whether it’s to show a little compassion to an older gentleman who appeared to just be tired or absolutely refuse to let him drive another inch. If Hansen had made him stop driving, I’m sure some of the same people would be screaming about it. That doesn’t keep us from holding them accountable for truly bad decision-making, though. In this case, it could have gone either way.

If anyone’s going to point fingers (and nothing good ever comes from that), place the blame where it really belongs: No matter the reason, Kitch’s car crossed the center line. End of story.

I was NOT the only person who immediately found it amusing when Tama and Benton County Sheriff’s deputies were involved in a chase last week with a stolen donut delivery van. Police officers and their imagined love for donuts are inextricably linked (with much thanks to Chief Wiggins on The Simpsons extending the stereotype).

However, I know police chases are serious business. Most of the time they’re dangerous, once in a while they’re fatal. So when I read the Tama County Attorney’s Office press release on the chase, my jaw hit the floor. “It is unknown whether” other responding officers “overheard radio communications regarding the chase or found the location by use of their olfactory senses,” the release says. Four paragraphs later, it says, “One deputy, when told that the owner of the truck and baked goods had offered the donuts to the officers, stated, ‘We got our man and we got the donuts.'”

Not surprisingly, Tama County Sheriff Dennis Kucera was not amused. “We do not condone this type of humor at the expense of the department’s integrity,” he wrote in a press release about the chase.

Obviously, I had to answer the question of whether the officers actually ate any donuts because that was REALLY what was on everyone’s minds. So I made it a secondary note in my story that they hadn’t. But I still had a reader from Waterloo send me an e-mail saying he was “disgusted” with my article.

“My father was one of the brave sheriff deputies that was involved in the high-speed chase yesterday in Benton and Tama Counties.  I understand that the vehicle that was stolen was a donut truck but I was disgusted to read your news article written by Alicia Ebaugh that a joke was made about donuts being offered to the police officers and sheriff deputies that assisted in apprehending the driver of the vehicle.   Instead of making a joke about a potentially deadly situation, I feel that maybe the article should focus on how professional the local area law enforcement was to safely and effectively apprehend this felon who was traveling though our state.   Maybe the story should have focused on the citizens of Benton and Tama Counties that were mindful enough and alert enough to avoid several collisions with this felon by pulling over for the Law Enforcement officers.  Instead you choose to make fun of such a professional and courageous position.  I’m not sure if you understand how serious this situation was.  PEOPLE COULD HAVE DIED!  And it was the actions of the law enforcement officers that prevented that.” What do you think of my coverage of the chase?