Traffic was tied up nearly an hour on Thursday morning by a two-vehicle wreck south of the Crocker Bridge on Highway 17 north of Waynesville.
CORRECTION: The following article correctly cited state patrol reports issued following the crash that the three children of Rhonda A. Gaither were not wearing seat belts at the time of their crash. Following inquiries from the Pulaski County Ambulance District, the state patrol report was corrected around Jan. 23 to indicate that all people in Gaither's vehicle had been wearing their seat belts.
WAYNESVILLE/ST. ROBERT, Mo. (UPDATED 3:20 p.m., Jan. 15, 2009) — Five people were badly hurt in a Thursday morning head-on crash on Highway 17 south of the Crocker Bridge, including three children who weren’t wearing seat belts or buckled into child restraint seats, troopers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported Thursday afternoon. Later that morning, a one-vehicle crash northeast of St. Robert caused moderate injuries to another unrestrained driver.
According to state patrol reports, Rhonda A. Gaither, 29, of Waynesville, was southbound at 7:48 a.m. driving a 1995 Plymouth Neon when she crossed the centerline and collided with a northbound 2005 Dodge Dakota pickup driven by Leroy F. Vanderhoof, 45, of Laquey.
Both drivers had been wearing their seat belts and were moderately injured. However, Gaither’s three children, Larz S. Gaither, 9, Shyann E. Gaither, 8, and Terrin N. Gaither, 10, were not restrained, according to state patrol reports. Larz and Shyann Gaither suffered moderate injuries and Terrin Gaither suffered serious injuries.
All five injured people were transported by Pulaski County Ambulance District paramedics to Phelps County Regional Medical Center for treatment.
The crash tied up traffic for nearly an hour, creating long backups. Waynesville police responded to a call outside the city limits due to unavailability of state troopers. Upon arrival, troopers found a white Neon facing northbound with a blue pickup off the road smashed into a rock bluff on the east side.
Waynesville firefighters and Pulaski County Ambulance District paramedics responded to the crash, along with state troopers who arrived later; firefighters were asked to bring extrication equipment to the crash.
Both vehicles were totaled and removed by Jack’s Towing.
As the crash was being cleaned up about 8:40 a.m., emergency personnel received a report of a second crash on Highway 7 near Interstate 44. However, upon arrival, rescue personnel found a vehicle in the ditch with no injuries.
A few hours later, troopers received a report of a one-vehicle wreck on Howard Drive a fifth of a mile west of Harris Road, which are side roads off Highway 28 northeast of St. Robert.
Troopers reported that at 11:15 a.m., Diana R. Cole, 33, of Dixon, was eastbound in a 2007 BMW 328I when she ran off the right side of the roadway and struck a culvert, causing extensive damage to her vehicle.
Cole, who had not been wearing her seat belt, was transported to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital by Pulaski County Ambulance District paramedics. Her vehicle was removed by Jack’s Towing.
In unrelated state patrol activities, troopers reported Tuesday that they arrested Michael J. Schnabel, 21, of St. Robert, at 10:02 p.m. on charges of driving while intoxicated and careless and imprudent driving. Schnabel was transported to the Pulaski County Jail and subsequently released.