Spirit Lake man faces charges after second destructive drive

Monday, December 23, 2019
James Stevens of Spirit Lake struck a pedestrian and damaged several business signs and a municipal street light along Peoria Avenue. The driver has been charged with driving while license denied/suspended and serious injury by vehicle.
Photo by Seth Boyes

This story has been updated with additional information from the Spirit Lake Police report.

A Spirit Lake man whose car collided with a home earlier in 2019 now faces separate charges after striking a pedestrian last week in the 2000 block of Peoria Avenue.

Photo by Seth Boyes

Spirit Lake Police said 76-year-old James Lee Stevens struck 46-year-old Joseph Aaron Vanveldhuizen of Orleans at about 10:21 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, in the driveway of Dave Kuker Trucking. The police report said Vanveldhuizen was taken by ambulance to Lakes Regional Healthcare with serious injuries. Staff at the business confirmed Vanveldhuizen is an employee but did not want to comment on his condition. The police report said Vanveldhuizen sustained a fractured vertebrae, lacerated liver, broken ribs, broken arm and loss of feeling in an arm. Stevens was charged with driving while license denied/suspended and serious injury by vehicle. The police report said Stevens has experienced seizures in the past and had no memory of driving along Peoria Avenue.

Stevens' license had been suspended because he was "incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely" due to the seizures, according to the criminal complaint. It went on to say Stevens had not taken his seizure medication the day of the accident but still chose to drive.

Evidence on the scene led authorities to believe Stevens was traveling south along the road in a black, 2019 Kia Sorento when he lost control. Authorities said the vehicle crossed into the opposite lane, hit the curb and collided with a snowbank before striking Vanveldhuizen in the driveway. The Kia then continued on, colliding with the trucking company's roadside sign, a large rock and a street light before rolling. The car came to a stop facing east, according to the report.

Clear impressions of tire tracks and green spray paint marking the scene could still be seen in the snow Wednesday morning, Dec. 18. A majority of the debris had been cleared from the roadway, but tiny bits and pieces of the Kia could be seen among the season's salt and sand in the road's gutter.

James Stevens had previously been charged with failure to maintain control after colliding with a home near the intersection of Erie Avenue and 20th Street in Spirit Lake.
File photo

Damage to Stevens' Kia was estimated at $20,000. Damage to the sign and street light were estimated at $1,000 and $2,000 respectively. Authorities were able to clear the scene by approximately 2:45 p.m. the day of the accident.

Stevens was involved in a similar incident a little more than five months ago in Spirit Lake. His black 2016 Kia Sorento nearly the same make and model of the vehicle he was driving on Dec. 17 collided with a house around 6:30 a.m. Monday, July 1 near the intersection of 20th Street and Erie Avenue in Spirit Lake.

Police determined at the time Stevens had lost control, crossed the center line, damaged a street sign and hit an embankment before the vehicle became airborne. The Kia ultimately traveled through the house's north wall and came to a stop when it hit the interior of the home's south wall. The residents were uninjured, and Stevens was listed as having minor injuries, but a number of items inside the home were damaged. The house no longer stands on the lot. Police said at the time Stevens may have been fatigued or fallen asleep at the wheel, and he was charged with failure to maintain control.

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