Milwaukee DPW driver involved in deadly crash suffered from seizures 'for 20 years'

NOW: Milwaukee DPW driver involved in deadly crash suffered from seizures ’for 20 years’

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- New reports released by Wauwatosa police show that a Milwaukee Department of Public Works driver had recently returned from extended medical leave and suffered from seizures for decades before a violent on-the-job crash that killed three people and injured at least three others.

CBS 58 obtained Wauwatosa PD records for the crash that happened on Mayfair Road on Dec. 13, 2022. Surveillance video from area businesses show a Milwaukee DPW truck crash into vehicles that appear to be stopped at a traffic light. One witness estimated the truck was "doing 55 miles per hour" when it crashed. Police say 10 vehicles were involved.

The driver, later identified as 64-year-old Denise Durrah, worked for DPW since 2018 and was highly regarded among co-workers and supervisors.

During their investigation, Wauwatosa police spoke to Maggie Carlenda Lenise Rosera, Durrah's daughter. She told police she "knows her mother has suffered from 'stress induced' seizures for approximately 20 years" and that the seizures "would come on quickly and it would take 15-20 minutes for her (Denise) to recover."

Durrah's sister, Vernell Wilson, told WPD that she had recently returned to work at the City of Milwaukee after being out on extended medical leave. According to Wilson, Durrah was injured falling off of a truck at work earlier in the summer and had only been back to work about a month. Durrah had been suffering from seizures since the accident and was taking medication for them.

According to the police report, DPW was aware that Durrah had seizures. A week after the deadly crash, Carnita Rembert, who identified herself to police as Durrah's supervisor, said that "Denise mentioned to her that she suffered from seizures, but that they were under control with medication."

A 40-year-old woman and an 85-year-old man were also killed in the crash.

No official cause for the crash has been released.

CBS 58 reached out to Milwaukee DPW to ask them how a driver is medically cleared to operate a city vehicle after extended medical leave, and what medical conditions would disqualify a city worker from operating a DPW vehicle.

Milwaukee DPW on Thursday, Feb. 9, issued the following statement: 

"Generally, DPW monitors the Wisconsin Driver's License status of all employees who have a driving requirement as a part of their job duties. If we become aware of any condition or restriction related to an employee's ability to drive we take all appropriate steps, including communicating with the employee's Health Care Provider (HCP) to confirm the employee’s ability to safely operate motor vehicles and to perform the essential functions of their position. We take these steps to protect the employment and civil service rights of the employee, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Prohibiting a licensed driver from operating a motor vehicle based solely on mere suspicion or hearsay would potentially be in violation of anti-discrimination employment laws; however, DPW will permanently or temporarily restrict its employees from driving where it is necessary and appropriate, in accordance with City and department policy, and federal and state law.

For confidentiality reasons we are unable to indicate how any of this may or may not have applied to any specific employee, and in consideration of ongoing claims and potential litigation, this is the extent of the information we have to share with media at this time."
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