1 dead, 1 arrested after crash on Hwy 17 near Merrill

Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 5:38 AM CDT
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TOWN OF MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - An 8-year-old boy is dead and a 41-year-old Merrill man is in custody after a crash on Hwy 17 in the Town of Merrill Saturday night. The crash happened near Sunrise Road just before 7:30 p.m.

According to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Wisconsin State Patrol, a pickup truck headed south on Hwy 17 crossed the center line and hit another pickup truck traveling in the northbound lane. The vehicles collided head-on. There were four people in the northbound vehicle. According to State Patrol, the driver, a 42-year-old Gleason man, and a 9-year-old female passenger from Gleason were taken to a Merrill hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Another passenger, a 37-year-old Gleason woman, suffered critical injuries and was flown to Aspirus Wausau Hospital. The fourth passenger, an 8-year-old Gleason boy, died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

The driver of the southbound vehicle, John Lahti of Merrill, was also injured in the crash. Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash. After being medically cleared, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office says Lahti was arrested and taken to the Lincoln County Jail where he was booked on a charge of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

The Wisconsin State Patrol conducted a crash reconstruction. The crash remains under investigation and more charges are possible.

That portion of Hwy 17 was closed for hours while crews investigated. It reopened just before 3:30 a.m. Sunday, according to the Wisconsin DOT.

Multiple agencies responded to the scene, including the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Wisconsin State Patrol, Merrill Fire and Ambulance, Town of Russell Fire Department and First Responders, Wausau EMS and Life Link Helicopter.