Missouri is still seeing much fewer fatal accidents this year, despite a spat of 12 deaths on the roads over the holiday weekend.
Lt. John Hotz with the Highway Patrol says the 12 deaths is a total that’s unfortunately “typical” for the 3 days around the 4th of July.
“Last year we had 11 people killed in traffic crashed in the state during the same 4th of July period. So the number did go up slightly and of course it could go up a little more because of late reporting or late deaths,” Hotz said.
The state is still on pace to see a drop in car accident deaths for the fourth straight year.
“We’re still 14% down from where we were this time last year. Certainly that’s encouraging but we’ll want to keep that number going down. The patrol’s going to do their part, we’re going to do a variety of enforcement activities and we just ask that the individual motorists would do their part,” Hotz said.
“Their part,” of course, entails paying attention on the road, driving defensively and not drinking and driving. But he says the accidents over the last weekend had one common denominator that could have kept the accidents from becoming fatal. Many people were not wearing their seatbelts and were ejected from their vehicles.
“There are a lot of things we can do to avoid being involved in a traffic crash. We can pay attention, we can drive the speed limit, not drink and drive. But once we are actually involved in a crash, the one thing we can do to protect ourselves is to make sure we have that seatbelt on each and every time we get in our vehicle,” Hotz said. “If you’re involved in a crash and you stay in that vehicle protect you like it’s supposed to, you’ve got a lot better chance of surviving. If you are ejected from the vehicle we know the chances of surviving go down dramatically.”
One bright spot from the weekend was the Patrol’s ‘10 Mile Trooper’ program, which increased enforcement in high traffic and dangerous areas throughout the state on Saturday and Sunday
“We did not have any fatalities on any of those highways that we had those troopers out concentrating on, so we are pleased with that effort so far. In the years that we’ve done this program there have not been any fatalities in those areas, and we try to focus on the areas that have the highest traffic and highest amount of potential problems,” Hotz said.
Hotz said there were some unusual circumstances in some of the fatal accidents.
“Obviously the numbers weren’t what we were hoping for, but we did have a couple of unusual occurrences, had a couple of fatalities on farm tractors which is kind of unusual, particularly this time of year,” Hotz said.
It’s not clear yet how many, or if any, of the accidents were alcohol related. But troopers arrested 169 people across the state for drunk driving, 20 more people than last year’s holiday time frame.
Here is the crash information from the holiday weekend (the counting period running from Friday night to Monday night) as provided by the Highway Patrol:
Of the six fatalities investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, two fatalities occurred in the Troop A, Lee’s Summit area; and one fatality occurred in each of the following troop areas: Troop B, Macon, Troop D, Springfield, Troop E, Poplar Bluff, and Troop F, Jefferson City.
Five fatalities occurred on Friday, July 3, 2010. Sonya Richter, 43, of Adrian, MO, died when the vehicle in which she was a passenger failed to yield and was struck by another vehicle. The crash occurred on U.S. Highway 71 at Missouri Route E in Bates County. Richter was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Bates County Coroner Schowengert pronounced Richter dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle in which Richter was a passenger was not wearing a seat belt and sustained moderate injuries in the crash. The driver of the other vehicle was wearing a seat belt and sustained minor injuries.
Erik M. Marshall, 31, Jackson, MO, died when he failed to stop the motorcycle he was driving at a stop sign and struck the side of another vehicle. The crash occurred on Missouri Highway 177 in Cape Girardeau, MO. Dr. Haddox at Saint Francis Medical Center pronounced Marshall dead at the hospital. The driver of the vehicle Marshall’s motorcycle struck was not injured; she was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Paul S. Shurnas, 44, of Columbia, MO, died when the vehicle he was driving became airborne on a hill crest due to excessive speed. The vehicle landed on the roadway on its wheels, rotated, traveled off the left side of the roadway into a ditch, started to overturn, then traveled off the right side of the roadway, and came to rest in the opposite ditch. The crash occurred on Missouri Route O north of Hickory Grove School in Boone County. Dr. Mueller pronounced Shurnas dead at the scene of the crash. Shurnas was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. A passenger in the vehicle sustained minor injuries; he was also wearing a seat belt.
Ryan G. Bunch, 24, of Richmond, MO, died when he failed to stop at a railroad crossing and his John Deere tractor was struck by a train. The crash occurred east of Egypt Road in Ray County. The crossing was marked by stop signs. Ray County Coroner Jim Garrison pronounced Bunch dead at the scene.
Peter M. Mathews, 33, of St. Louis, MO, died when he lost control of the vehicle he was driving, causing it to cross several lanes, struck a guardrail, and traveled onto the grass. The vehicle then rotated and Mathews, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected. The crash occurred on Interstate 44 in St. Louis. Mathews was pronounced dead at St. Louis University Hospital. A passenger in Mathews’ vehicle was injured in the crash; he was wearing a seat belt. This crash was investigated by the St. Louis Police Department.
One fatality occurred on July 4, 2010. Curtis D. Stallo, 14, of Salisbury, MO, died when the tractor he was driving collided with a bridge railing, overturned off the bridge, and disconnected from the trailer. The tractor came to rest on top of Stallo. The crash occurred on Missouri Highway 129 at East Fork Chariton River Bridge. Chariton County Coroner Larry Breshears pronounced Stallo dead at the scene. Stallo was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. The Chariton County Ambulance, Chariton County Sheriff’s Department, Chariton County Fire Department, Salisbury Fire Department, and Chariton County first responders were also on scene.
Two fatalities occurred on July 5, 2010. Edward L. Shields, 37, of Neosho, MO, died when the vehicle he was driving ran off the right side of the roadway and he overcorrected, causing the vehicle to run off the left side of the roadway and overturn. The crash occurred on old U.S. Highway 60 east of Seneca in Newton County. Newton County Coroner Lee Ireland pronounced Shields dead at the scene. Shields was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Ashley Brenner, 21, of St. Louis, died when the vehicle in which she was a passenger slid into multiple parked cars. Brenner was not wearing a seat belt and was eventually ejected from the vehicle. The crash occurred on Holly Hills in St. Louis, MO. Dr. Nichalus pronounced Brenner deceased at Barnes Hospital. This crash was investigated by the St. Louis Police Department.
The remaining four fatalities are being investigated by the Kansas City Police Department. No further details are available at this time.