Chillicothe looking at boat ramp where Julie Peters’ car was submerged

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin
A view of Walnut Street ending and the Illinois River beginning

City officials are considering whether safety precautions are necessary at the boat ramp at the end of Walnut Street, the likely spot where the car driven by Julie Peters, of Edwards, entered the Illinois River on Sept. 28.

Peters’ Chevrolet Impala was pulled from near the spot Monday night, and Peters was identified as the car’s lone occupant through dental records the next day. The mother of two small children, Peters would have turned 23 on Thursday.

She was reported missing after last being seen between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Sept. 28 at a wedding reception at the American Legion on Second Street, about three blocks from the Walnut Street boat ramp.

An autopsy found drowning to be the likely cause of death. Results from toxicology tests won’t be known for weeks.

Chillicothe Mayor Doug Crew met with Peters’ family for about an hour on Wednesday.

“We talked about issues related to safety and about their interest in creating a memorial at the site,” Crew said Thursday.

Walnut Street ends with a short decline into the Illinois River two blocks east of City Hall. There is a similar second boat ramp a block away at the foot of Pine Street; a parking lot for vehicles towing boat trailers is located along the riverfront between the two streets. The bar Banana’s faces the riverfront at the corner of Front and Walnut streets and could have provided eyewitnesses to the car entering the river, but it was damaged in last April’s flood and was still closed on Sept. 28. It reopened this week.

The topic of safety at the boat ramps was also discussed at Wednesday’s public works committee meeting.

“We will talk to the city engineer and public works and see if something needs to be done and do so in a deliberate manner,” Crew said. “With all due respect, that ramp has been there for a long, long time and gets a lot of use and no one can remember any accident like this one happening in the past.”

Crew was reluctant to speculate about what type of safety precaution might be prudent — a gate perhaps or signage and improved lighting.

“We weren’t discussing any specifics,” Crew said. “We can talk about that on another day.”

Peters’ death was not the first drowning in a car at the foot of Walnut Street in recent years. In October 2008, Lois Hundemer, 71, of Peoria Heights, went missing for three days before her car and body were pulled from the river at the same location.