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Local

Former Sterling man dies in Lee County car crash

David C. Swehla
David C. Swehla

A former Sterling man was killed Tuesday afternoon when his car collided with a semitrailer in Lee County.

It was about 4 p.m., and David C. Swehla, 72, of Tigard, Ore., was westbound on U.S. Route 30, about a half mile east of U.S. Route 52, when his car swerved into the oncoming lane and collided with the semi, driven by William A. Potts of Arizona, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department said.

Potts drove off the road in an attempt to avoid him, but Swehla’s car slid under the tractor-trailer, then under the mobile home Potts was hauling, the sheriff’s department said.

Swehla was flown to OSF St. Anthony Medical Center, in Rockford, where he was pronounced dead, Sheriff John Varga said.

Potts had no serious injury, and no tickets or citations were issued, Varga said.

The investigation is continuing, and no further details were available late Wednesday.

According to the Sauk Valley Newspapers archives, Swehla grew up in Sterling and was a 1954 graduate of Sterling High School.

His father, Bill, built the town’s first four-stall gas station, located where Midas Muffler is now; his mother, Kathleen, was Swehla Oil Co.’s bookkeeper.

As a boy, Swehla palled around with Pete Dillon, and in school he ran cross country and played tennis, sang in the choir and played in the band at the Grandon Civic Center.

Swehla, who became a teacher and father of four, hadn’t lived in Sterling for more than 30 years, but was featured in a Sauk Valley Newspapers story in August, when Sterling’s team played in the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, near Tigard.

He got quite a kick out of that experience at Alpenrose Field.

“We’re from Sterling and we couldn’t be prouder,” he yelled from the bleachers, encouraging other fans to join him. “If you didn’t hear us, we’ll yell a little louder!”

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