The Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) has settled a lawsuit over a fatal accident involving a speeding state trooper who was driving on a dark highway without emergency lights flashing. The crash happened around 1:30 a.m. May 7, 2017. The wreck proved fatal killing Mississippi State University (MSU) track star Kaelin Kersh, 22, and injuring two others. Kersh is the daughter of George Kersh, a world-class runner, known as one of the best in Mississippi history.
MHP agreed to pay $500,000 to settle the suit, the highest amount allowed by the state tort claims act. The act caps payouts by government entities in a lawsuit at $500K. Circuit Judge Lee Coleman ordered MHP to place the funds into a court account for disbursement according to the Starkville Daily News. The highway patrol transferred over the settlement money June 6 and will be divided among those who filed the suit.
Kersh, a recent graduate of MSU, died in the crash early Sunday. She graduated with a degree in kinesiology and health fitness studies. Kersh ran distance events and relays for Mississippi State. In 2016, she helped capture the distance medley relay at the Alabama Relays finishing with a total time of 11:27:97. During the 2017 indoor season, Kersh was a member of the distance medley and 4×400 relay teams. She signed with MSU in 2013 after a great career at Pearl High. Kersh was the 5A state champion in the 800 meters in 2012 and 2013.
“Kaelin always had a positive attitude and this was contagious to everyone around her,” MSU track and field coach Steve Dudley said in a statement, according to WTVA-TV. “Kaelin was a member of the most successful era of women’s track and field at Mississippi State, and that was largely due to the tight bond between her and her teammates.”
On Sunday May 7, 2017, Kaelin Kersh was in the backseat of 2002 Toyota Corolla when struck by an MHP SUV. Reports indicate the SUV was traveling
east on MS 182 in order to verify a report of a vehicle leaving the roadway at 16th Section road on MS 182. The green Toyota Corolla entered the roadway traveling north from Mayhew Road. MHP collided with left side of the Corolla. Kersh was pronounced dead at the scene by the Oktibbeha County Coroner.
The Clarion Ledger reports:
The driver of the Corolla was 21-year-old Noel Collier from Madison, who was transported to OCH initially then to UMC Jackson with moderate injuries, MHP said. There were two passengers in the Corolla. The other passenger was Tanequa Alexander, a 22-year-old female from Ridgeland who was initially transported to OCH before being transferred to NMMC Tupelo with moderate injuries. The MHP Trooper involved in the crash was transported by patrol vehicle to BMH in Columbus for minor injuries. This crash remains under investigation by MHP.
The star athlete’s death brought to life new legislation governing law enforcement’s use of flashing lights. The Kaelin Kersh Act passed by the state legislature during the last session, goes into effect July 1. It requires law enforcement traveling 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit to use flashing lights.
The speeding trooper has remained unidentified.