August 8, 2022
Janet Bewley is the Wisconsin state Senate Minority Leader who was involved in a fatal crash that killed a young mother and her daughter.

Janet Bewley is the Wisconsin state Senate Minority Leader who was involved in a fatal crash that killed a young mother and her daughter.

Alyssa Ortman, 27, and her 5-year-old daughter, Khaleesi, who are from Pennsylvania, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to a press release emailed to Heavy by the Ashland Police Department.

Bewley (D-Mason) has served in the Wisconsin Legislature since 2010, when she started as a state Assembly member. She is not seeking re-election.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Bewley Pulled Out From an Entrance to a Beach & Collided With Ortman’s Car, Which Then Spun Across the Highway

On Friday, July 22, 2022m at about 12:26 p.m., Ashland County dispatch “received multiple 911 calls of a multiple vehicle accident on US Hwy 2/Lakeshore Drive near Turner Road in the City of Ashland,” according to a press release emailed to Heavy by the Ashland Police Department.

“Ashland Police Department and Ashland Fire Department responded to the scene,” the release says. “The preliminary investigation showed that the accident occurred when a vehicle driven by Janet Bewley, age 70 of Mason, WI, pulled out from the entrance of Maslowski Beach to turn east onto US Hwy 2.”

That vehicle “collided with a vehicle that was westbound on US 2 driven by Alyssa Ortman, age 27 of Clearfield, PA,” the release states.

“That vehicle then spun across the highway and was struck by an eastbound vehicle driven by Jodi Munson, age 45 of Mason, WI. Alyssa Ortman was transported to Memorial Medical Center where she died of her injuries. Her five year old daughter was pronounced dead at the scene.”

The release continues, “The Ashland County Sheriff’s Department, Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department, Ashland County Highway Department, Bayfield County Highway Department, Wisconsin State Patrol, Ashland Public Works, Bad River First Responders, and Mason Fire Department all assisted with the road closure or the scene.”

2. Bewley, Who Had Cataract Surgery the Day Before, Was on the Phone With a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Reporter When the Crash Occurred

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that its intern, Ben Baker, “was on the phone with Bewley at the time of the crash on Friday afternoon for an interview he had arranged with her staff about this fall’s elections for the Legislature.”

The newspaper reported: “Shortly after the interview began, Bewley told Baker she had cataract eye surgery the day before. Minutes later, she stopped talking mid-sentence and the call went silent. When Baker asked Bewley if she was still on the line, she sounded concerned. When Baker asked if she was OK, she said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK. This is not a good accident.’”

According to the Ashland Daily Press, Ashland Police Chief Bill Hagstrom said Bewley was not injured and that the State Patrol is reconstructing the crash to help determine whether charges should be filed or recommended.

“We’ll be sitting down with them and going over everything as far as determining how it all actually happened,” Hagstrom said to the newspaper. “Then we’ll forward everything to the district attorney for their review because it was a fatal accident.”

The sheriff added to Daily Press, “There’s nothing suspected as far as alcohol or foul play or anything.” Bewley’s office released the following statement to Daily Press: “This is a heartbreaking event for the community. Our thoughts and prayers are focused on the individuals involved, their families and their loved ones. Senator Bewley, who was not seriously injured in the accident, wants to thank all the dedicated law enforcement and emergency medical personnel who helped in the aftermath of the accident.”

3. The Deceased Child’s Father Wrote, ‘Great People We Elect’

Brandon Fink, the deceased child’s father, wrote about the tragedy on Facebook.

“Wow… my daughter was taken from me after a US Senator, Janet Bewley for Wisconsin, hit her and her mother into traffic and to thier demise. Hasn’t even reached out… great people we elect,” he wrote.

Bewley is a state senator, not a U.S. senator, though. She is the state Senate’s Democratic Minority Leader. Fink lives in Pennsylvania. He also wrote a lengthy tribute to his daughter on Facebook:

Idk what to say.. I feel like people expect updates or to hear everything’s going to be ok.. but it’s not. Nothing will make this ok. Nothing will make me feel better and no I don’t need anything. I was supposed to get my daughter home here, at her house and be hearing silly stories about vacation.. instead I got calls from the funeral home.. I turn on the Switch and a game of Mario Smash bros pops up mid battle that I will never get let you win. I see the purse you got from Aunt Annie, half colored that you’ll never get to complete… and I see our Daddy Pig painting half finished that you will never get to complete and sit beside the Peppa Painting we did together so wede have the Daddy and Daughter Pig.. just like us.. Little girl there are people heartbroke over you all over this Earth. We have a following of over 6000 on Twitter of people that that we made thier days brighter by posting our silly trampoline and other videos. Everyone says the same thing.. that laugh is so infectious.. Chalk Monsters was our project.. you gave me ideas for characters and colored some of them in… we only were just getting started baby girl we have over 450 to go.. My daughter was only 5 and already made more people smile all over the globe then many will thier entire lives… I don’t even know where I’m going with this my love I just know I wish this wasn’t real. There’s so much shit in this world and here you were less then 5 and already making a positive difference.. you were/are just so incredible little Khali, Daddy misses you so flippen much and I just cant believe you were taken from me, we had so much planned and started that’s it’s so unfair you will never get to finish.. this just can’t be real.. I again feel like such a post should end on a positive note, some kind of silver lining, but there is none.. nothing will ever make this OK and I will never be ok. I will always be missing you, I made you a part of everything I did.. cooking cleaning.. where many dads would’ve said don’t bug me so I can get this done, I said ok let’s make a mess.. we did literally everything together and made it all fun no matter how boring the actual task might be.. you literally made everything brighter lil girl. You lit up my life and gave me an ambition and drive I didn’t know was possible. I hear your voice giggling out “this is not a good idea” and it’s just so perfect us.. even if we were doing something stupid, dangerous, silly, no matter what we just giggled out way through.. my life feels so empty without these giggles.. I could go on and on my lil Khali, in 5 years you did enough and touched enough people to talk about for a lifetime. Daddy misses and loves you like crazy little girl, I wish you could come back and then take me or something, anything but you being gone, the world needs more people like you and it’s just rediculous that it lost you. How will light ever prevail over darkness when it don’t even get the chance to see how insanely bright it could’ve been. You were my light little girl, my best friend, and I know I was your favorite toy. You will never be gone to me. I will always keep you with me.. I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to want anything but to be with you.. how I’m ever going to focus on anything else.. you were my whole life and I just don’t even know what else to say without getting dark.. it very hard to do but I am going to try for you little girl. Daddy wasn’t the man you knew before you were around, and I can’t become that person again, even though you aren’t here, I will still do all I can to be the person you loved for the rest of my life. I can’t let myself be any less. You changed my life in so many beautiful ways and I’ll never ever forget that I will always do all I can to honor you, my hilarious, insanely beautiful, and smart girl that had a drive for life that touched so many. We all think about you, are lost without you, and more then anything love you insanely.

Jodi Newago wrote on Fink’s comment thread, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I was the 3rd car traveling traveling in the oncoming lane. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling. Senator Bewley owes some big answers.”

4. The Ortman Family Suffered a Previous Tragedy

There is a Facebook page devoted to the memories of the mother and child. It is raising donations.

The page says,

The Ortman family is in need for our deepest sympathies and condolences! A year and a half ago, Ginger laid to rest her son, Chris, due to a drunk driver. As if that wasn’t enough for a mother to have to mourn, a few days ago, she got more devastating news. Her daughter, Alyssa, and her granddaughter, Khaleesi, were in a horrible accident while on vacation and did not make it. The family is in need for our help to help bring their loved ones home and give them the proper burial that they deserve! Prayers, monetary donations, etc. are beyond appreciated!

5. Bewley Is a Married Mother of Five & a Grandmother Who Once Served on the Ashland City Council

According to her Legislative bio, Bewley was born in Panesville, Ohio, in 1951 and has five children and five grandchildren.

She is a graduate of James Ford Rhodes High School (Cleveland, Ohio), 1969. She has a bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University, 1973, and a master’s degree from the University of Maine in 1977.

Her website bio describes her as: “Former Community Relations Officer, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority; former Dean of Students, Northland College; former executive director, Mary H. Rice Foundation.”

She is listed as an “Original cast member at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua and current member of the Rittenhouse Chamber Singers; Wisconsin Family Impact Seminar (advisory board member); Wisconsin Paper Caucus (vice chair); Democratic National Committee.”

She is a former member of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse and the Fostering Futures Policy Advisory Committee.

According to her bio, she received the following awards: “Wisconsin Association of Free & Charitable Clinics Legislative Advocate of the Year 2019; Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Legislator of the Year 2018; Wisconsin Economic Development Association Champion of Economic Development 2018; Wisconsin Builders Association Friend of Housing 2018, 2016, 2014; Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association Enlightened Legislator of the Year 2018; Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Conservation Champion 2018, 2014, 2012; Wisconsin Brewers Guild Friend of Wisconsin Craft Brewers 2013.”

She served on the Ashland City Council from 2007 to 2009 and was elected to the state Assembly from 2010-212. She was elected to the state Senate in 2014 and was named Assistant Minority Leader in 2017.

She also served on the Wisconsin Council on Forestry and Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse. Her current committee assignments were listed as: Committee on Senate Organization, Joint Committee on Employment Relations, Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, Joint Legislative Council, Legislative Council Study Committee on Shared School District Services, and the Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations (Vice-Chair).

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