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Salvation Army Van Crash Explained

March 5, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) _ The driver of a Salvation Army van that crashed, killing himself and 10 passengers, was traveling too fast on an icy road and his judgment may have been impaired by cold medication, federal investigators said.

The van driven by Garneal T. Matthews, 44, spun out of control on Interstate 55 near Joliet on Jan. 26, 2001, crossed the median and rolled onto its side before colliding with a northbound truck.

``The driver’s use of an over-the-counter antihistamine may have contributed to this operational error,″ the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report Monday.

Matthews, who did not have a valid driver’s license, had failed to reduce his speed after passing several accidents and slower traffic, the report said. One witness estimated Matthews was traveling 60 to 65 mph; the NTSB said the maximum safe speed at the time was 35 mph.

Matthews was transporting people from Chicago to visit relatives and friends incarcerated at state prisons in Dwight and Pontiac.

Salvation Army officials did not respond to questions about the NTSB report. The nonprofit organization faces wrongful-death lawsuits filed by families of the victims.

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