Natalie M. Wessel, 23, was just fresh out of college and already on her journey to success by working as a Radiologic Technologist at Memorial Hospital in Jasper, Indiana. She was a 2002 graduate of Jasper High School and a 2006 graduate of the University of Southern Indiana. She was a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. She was a friend, daughter, sister, niece, and cousin.
On Sunday, November 18th, 2007 early in the morning Natalie decided to drive home after spending the weekend with friends in Louisville. Natalie’s accident happened in Ferdinand, In, just 10 minutes away from her home. Natalie fell asleep at the wheel and crossed into on coming traffic hitting the left side of a semi- tractor trailer. She died later that morning from her injuries at Memorial Hospital in Jasper, IN.
The purpose of Operation Natalie is to promote smart driving to the youth of Vanderburgh County and surrounding areas. Indiana is known as the “Crossroads of America”, and 2004 recent statistics show that Indiana is above the national average in car accident fatalities.
“There were 157 fatal accidents that involved heavy trucks, big rigs, semis, and 18-Wheelers. These accidents made up 16.6% of all the vehicle accident fatalities in Indiana, as opposed to 12.2% of fatal accidents nationwide. Furthermore, there were 277 intersection fatalities over 2004 representing 29.3% of the vehicle accident deaths in Indiana, while the national percentage was only 21.4%
In fact, car accident fatalities are generally higher than average than the rest of the United States as a whole. Indiana had higher percentage of passenger car fatalities (48.4% vs. 44.8%), miscellaneous vehicle accidents (4% vs. 3.4%), total occupants killed (79.2% vs. 77.7%), and motorcycle riders (11.4% vs. 9.4%)” (http://indiana.resource4accidents.com/)
Natalie died from the second most common causes of automobile accidents known as driver’s fatigue. http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/07/20/the_6_most_common_causes_of_automobile_crashes.htm
The initial idea for Operation Natalie is to start a club at the University of Southern Indiana and to travel to high schools in the surrounding areas giving students prevention tips, sharing emotional experiences, and have counselors on hand for any student who may have suffered a recent loss.