Wrong-way semi driver faces felony for I-43 crash

Trucker drove down off ramp in Port, said he planned to make U-turn on freeway
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The driver of a semi who used the exit ramp to enter I-43 on the north side of Port Washington and tried to make a U-turn on the freeway in February now faces a felony for an incident that caused a serious accident and blocked traffic for an hour.

Milwaukee resident Orriet N. Wright, 42, was charged last week in Ozaukee County Circuit Court with second-degree recklessly endangering safety.

According to the criminal complaint, the driver of a pickup truck owned by Badger Land Car Wash Equipment and Supplies of Oak Creek said he was driving north on I-43 at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, and was planning to take the Highway H exit on the north side of Port when he saw the semi coming down the off ramp toward him.

The pickup truck driver said the semi turned in front of him at the bottom of the ramp and, although he tried to avoid a collision, he hit the semi trailer just in front of the rear wheels.

The driver of the pickup truck was trapped in the vehicle because of the extensive front-end damage and suffered chest and rib pain. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The semi ended up jackknifed across both northbound lanes of I-43.

Wright told authorities he was driving south on I-43 when he exited the freeway at Highway H and drove west toward Port Washington. He said he intended to turn right onto Highway LL, but instead turned too early and wound up headed the wrong way on the I-43 off ramp, the complaint states.

Wright apparently realized his mistake but said he decided he was too far down the ramp to back up, so he planned to do a U-turn on the freeway, according to the complaint.

Surveillance video from the nearby Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly store shows that Wright drove south on Highway H, then stopped for about 10 seconds at the northbound off ramp. He appeared to put the semi in reverse briefly before proceeding down the off ramp, the complaint states.

As he drove the wrong way down the ramp, Wright pulled onto the shoulder for 10 to 15 seconds, apparently to let vehicles exiting I-43 pass. He then proceeded onto the freeway and attempted a U-turn.

Wright is scheduled to make his initial court appearance before Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Sandy Williams on April 27.

Second-degree recklessly endangering safety is punishable by a maximum five years in prison and five years of extended supervision.

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