Trempealeau County Highway 35 crashes raise concerns from business owners

Ecker's Apple Farm owners want state to step in after multiple crashes outside their business

TREMPEALEAU, Wis. (WKBT) – Two crashes in two straight weekends grabbed the attention of business owners in Trempealeau County. Now Ecker’s Apple Farm owners are attempting to get the attention of state officials so more people don’t get hurt.

When the leaves change, the taste of Autumn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“Apple season is a very crazy time of year for us,” said Simon DeGabriele, one of the owners of Ecker’s Apple Farm just outside of Centerville.

DeGabriele married into a Midwest business built on a family tradition.

“I’m fourth generation and these guys here are the fifth generation,” said DeGabriele’s wife Jessica Ecker as she pointed to their two children.

An Apple orchard is a place where you’ll find a lot of facts.

“We drop the apples into the water,” DeGabriele said. “They get a wash and polish as they come out.

“On a good season, we would pick around 1.3 million apples. A million is small.

“Weekly, 700 apple pies are made by hand.”

You’ll also find a lot of opinions.

“Best apple pies in the Midwest,” DeGabriele said. “I apologize to your grandma, but you come and taste our pies and you’ll understand.”

DeGabriele knows of one fact that places a sour taste in the life of his home community.

“There was an incident last weekend and the weekend before,” DeGabriele said.

The stretch of asphalt outside his business produces statistics he can’t ignore.

“That’s the five miles we’re talking about here,” DeGabriele said. “There’s been 52 incidents just in the last five years.”

A number Ecker said is too many. One crash happened there on Saturday.

“Both accidents required significant response from first responders,” DeGabriele said.

Crashes affect more than DeGabriele’s family’s business. He wants to protect his children who live right next door.

“It was rough,” Ecker said.

Galesville resident Heather James drove one of those cars.

“The other car pulled right in front of me,” James said.

“The scariest part was opening my door and seeing my son laying on the ground with a bunch of people around him. I wasn’t sure what condition he was in.”

Fortunately for Heather, people trained for these moments made a trip to get a taste of Ecker’s apples themselves.

“First responders who just happened to be at our place of business enjoying their days off,” DeGabriele said.

They sprang into action as if they were ready for a 911 call.

“They did just an amazing job,” James said.

James’ son was in good hands.

“He was talking to me and he told me he was okay,” she said.

Sometimes the stories of State Highway 35 ends with funerals.

“There has been a couple of fatalities on this road,” DeGabriele said.

It’s why DeGabriele said he wants Wisconsin to look at ways to reverse this trend, like a lower speed limit or turn lanes.

“The people on this road are my local community members,” DeGabriele said.

James said drivers can make an impact now.

“Slow down,” she said. “Pay attention.”

DeGabriele said he would like the entire community’s support toward improving safety along this road. He hopes to collect about 15,000 signatures from local residents.

DeGabriele is collaborating with local businesses and local government. Trempealeau County Sheriff  Brett Semingson told News 8 Now his office is working with the region’s traffic safety director. There will be an increased police presence and more signage along Highway 35.

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