BREAKING NEWS

No 'correlation with intoxication' in I-380 wrong-way fatal crash

Robert Norton Jr. drove south in northbound lanes

Law enforcement on Jan. 29 investigate the scene of a multiple vehicle crash in the northbound lanes of Interstate 380 south of the 76th Avenue SW overpass in southwest Cedar Rapids. Police said Robert Norton Jr., 69, drove the wrong way and struck and killed Jennifer Koenighain, 28. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Law enforcement on Jan. 29 investigate the scene of a multiple vehicle crash in the northbound lanes of Interstate 380 south of the 76th Avenue SW overpass in southwest Cedar Rapids. Police said Robert Norton Jr., 69, drove the wrong way and struck and killed Jennifer Koenighain, 28. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Robert Norton Jr. had some alcohol in his system two months ago when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 380 for about 3 miles before colliding with and killing Jennifer Koenighain of Cedar Rapids.

But the level was not high enough for him to have faced a drunken driving charge if he had been pulled over.

Authorities Thursday released their findings in the Jan. 29 fatal wrong-way crash, concluding there “was no forensic correlation with intoxication as defined by the Iowa Code,” according to Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman Greg Buelow. Or put another way: “The results we received would not have risen to a criminal charge for operating while impaired or intoxicated,” he said.

The findings publicly released do not include Norton’s specific toxicology at the time of the crash that killed Koenighain, 28, of Cedar Rapids. Two occupants of a third car involved in the crash suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Authorities said that sometime about 9:10 p.m. that night, Norton, 69 of Iowa City, drove south in the northbound lanes on I-380 beginning at the 33rd Avenue SW ramp.

Police received multiple calls about a car going the wrong way. But Norton continued in the wrong direction — including passing through the interchange with Highway 30 — for miles before the head-on crash.

Citing witness statements and traffic camera footage from the Iowa Department of Transportation, authorities said Norton traveled in the inside lane.

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“There are not indications that Norton’s vehicle swerved or left that inside lane as he continued to travel in the wrong direction on the interstate,” Buelow said in a news release. “Norton’s vehicle appeared to be traveling slower than the vehicles on the other side of the median that were correctly traveling south in the southbound I-380 lanes.”

Norton and Koenighain died at the scene.

Koenighain’s boyfriend, Steve Goedken, previously told The Gazette she was driving home from doing yoga in North Liberty at the time of the crash.

Koenighain, a graduate of Kennedy High School, was a supervisor in the patients account departments at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.

Goedken said she was adventurous and loved her dog and family. The two had spent the day before the crash getting lunch and cupcakes.

Norton was president of KZIA-FM 102.9 in southwest Cedar Rapids. He and business partner Eliot Keller started KRNA-FM in the 1970s and owned it together until 1998. Norton and Keller later purchased KZIA, which was formerly known as KQCR-FM.

With Norton not being illegally intoxicated but seemingly familiar with the stretch of I-380 where the crash occurred, family and friends of Norton and Koenighain are left without some answers.

“Unfortunately, the reality is there are questions that will still remain, even after the crash investigation and medical examiner reports are completed,” Buelow said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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