Family of victims from fatal cycle crash gets support from Crash Coalition

  • Alia Bernard

    Alia Bernard

Updated 3/16/2011 5:58 PM

Nearly two years after a crash on Route 47 near Elburn that killed her son, daughter-in-law and injured 12 others, Vivian Thomas has received support from many people.

One of them is Greg Zaffke, president and founding board member of Crash Coalition.


Zaffke formed the group after his mother, Anna, who was on her motorcycle, was rear-ended and killed in May 2009 in Lake Zurich by a woman who was painting her nails.

Lora Hunt, of Morris, was sentenced to 18 months of periodic imprisonment for that crash.

In the Elburn case, Alia N. Bernard, 26, of Aurora, could face five years in prison if convicted of reckless homicide in the deaths of Wade and Denise Thomas of St. Charles.

Vivian Thomas said authorities have told her that Bernard was "texting close to (the time of) or during the crash."

Bernard is accused of rear-ending a stopped car on May 23, 2009, pushing it into an oncoming group of motorcycle riders and causing a nine-vehicle pileup on Route 47 near Smith Road.

"It's hard every time we come to court, but at least we're getting some kind of answers now," said Vivian Thomas, who lives in St. Charles. "We've got a (June 13) trial date set."

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Zaffke wants to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

"DWD (driving while distracted) is very dangerous and should have serious consequences," Zaffke said. "It's really not (just) a motorcycle issue. It affects everyone on the road. It's a safety issue for everyone."

Bernard was indicted in May 2010; she is free on $5,000 bond and also faces a charge of driving while under the influence of cannabis.

Bernard's defense attorney, Bruce Brandwein, on Wednesday tried unsuccessfully to have Judge Allen Anderson dismiss the charges.

Brandwein argued that prosecutors incorrectly worded the charges to accuse Bernard of failing to keep "proper lookout" while driving her car. Brandwein argued the language was more appropriate for a civil lawsuit, but Anderson disagreed.

Denise Thomas' sons from a previous marriage filed a wrongful-death suit against Bernard in July 2009. That case is due in court March 31, but likely won't be finished until the criminal trial is complete.