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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Lena Man Charged In Fatal Crash Death

Issue Date: December 12, 2019

Travis J. Ragen, 30, of Lena, is facing a felony charge of second-degree reckless homicide as a result of a fiery crash at about 11 p.m. on Friday, Nov 15 that took the life of Melissa Cota, 53, of Oconto. The crash occurred in the Town of Oconto at the junction of Hwy. 22 and Logtown Road, west of Oconto. Ragen is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Oconto County Circuit Court on Thursday, Dec.12.

A second-degree homicide charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

The accident was initially reported as a one-vehicle rollover in the ditch, with the vehicle on fire. It wasn't until both vehicles went up in flames that Cota's car, with her inside, was discovered.

Cota's car, pinned underneath Ragen's truck in the ditch, was hidden from view and was not discovered until several moments after the first two Oconto County deputies arrived and explosions rocked the vehicles, according to the criminal complaint.

Deputy Alexander Scray, who arrived a few minutes after it was reported, found the pickup on its roof, with its the engine compartment on fire. Motorists who had stopped told him someone was trapped in the truck, which was also towing a trailer loaded with a skid-steer.

The reports state Scray dragged the driver, later identified as Ragen, across State 22 to safety, and further states that Ragen who had several facial lacerations and was unconscious, smelled of alcohol. He was taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay for treatment, where it was found he also had suffered a broken hip and leg injuries.

Kevin Christensen arrived and began to use an extinguisher on the fire, and he and Scray checked the pickup for other occupants. A large dog was found in the back-seat area, but they were unable to get the dog out before the truck became engulfed in flames and forced them to back away, after which there were multiple explosions.

It wasn't until the Oconto Fire Rescue Department ambulance arrived a short time later and began treating Ragen that Christensen noticed a car underneath the burning truck bed. Both vehicles were destroyed by the fire and the person inside the car, later identified as Cota, was later pronounced dead.

The ambulance arrived at 11:10 p.m., according to Oconto Fire Rescue Department Chief John Reed.

According to the criminal complaint, investigators determined that Regan's vehicle was traveling west on Hwy. 22, towing the trailer with the skid steer, when he crossed the center line and struck the Cota vehicle. The trailer went airborne and the pickup truck flipped over on top of the car.

"The two vehicles now act as one and begin to travel across the eastbound gravel shoulder into the ditch where they came to rest." the complaint goes on. The trailer then disconnected by tearing off the trailer hitch and overturned, landing on its side.

A blood draw was taken after Ragen arrived at the hospital and sent to the state crime lab for analysis. The criminal complaint against him was filed on Tuesday, Dec. 3.


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