Three hurt in six-vehicle Monday wreck on I-44 involving state trooper
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 6:23 am
Following a Monday afternoon wreck on I-44, St. Robert firefighters work to prepare one of three people injured for ambulance transport to an area hospital.
ST. ROBERT, Mo. (April 14, 2009) — A six-vehicle crash tied up westbound Interstate 44 just west of Exit 159 for nearly five hours Monday afternoon and clogged many other area roads even longer, sending three people to area hospitals.
According to Missouri State Highway Patrol reports, the wreck began about 1:06 p.m. when a 2002 Ford tow truck driven by Ricky D. Fry, 55, of St. Robert, activated its emergency lights and stopped on the shoulder of the interstate for a previous accident. Trooper James W. Collins, 29, of Richland, had his emergency lights on and slowed down in an attempt to pull between the tow truck and the previous accident. Two vehicles behind them, a 2005 Chevrolet Impala driven by Christopher A. Owens, 24, of Ypsilanti, Mich., and a 2003 Jeep Wrangler driven by James M. Hoffmeyer, 22, of St. Peter’s, both slowed down and a third vehicle, a 2000 Chevrolet Suburban driven by Mary S. Graham, 23, of Devil’s Elbow, was able to stop. However, truck driver Darrel R. Novak, 37, of Ashley, Ill., lost control of his 2001 Kenworth tractor-trailer and struck the rear of Graham’s Suburban, which then struck Hoffmeyer’s Jeep. The semi also struck Owens’ Impala, which hit the tow truck and the tow truck then hit the patrol car.
The patrol car had only minor damage to the left rear tail light lens and rear bumper with repairs estimated at less than $100; the tow truck also had only minor damage. However, the Impala, Wrangler and Suburban were all totaled, and the semi sustained moderate damage.
Owens, Hoffmeyer and Graham all suffered moderate injuries; Owens was transported by Pulaski County Ambulance District paramedics to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital and the other two patients were transported to Phelps County Regional Medical Center. Two of the patients required extrication but it wasn’t immediately clear which two.
All drivers except Fry had been wearing their seat belts. Troopers reported that Graham did not have insurance.
The state patrol’s major crash team was called to the crash site and beginning at 2:23 p.m., Missouri Department of Transportation officials repeatedly issued reports that the crash would be cleared up within an hour. During that period, traffic was diverted from Exit 159 and Exit 161 onto Old Route 66 through St. Robert and Waynesville, tying up that route and also snarling St. Robert Boulevard, forcing school buses and other traffic onto the gravel of Superior Road and delaying school buses up to 45 minutes. Troopers were about to open the passing lane of Interstate 44 shortly before 5 p.m. and finally reopened both lanes of the interstate at 6:03 p.m., but traffic on side roads continued to be snarled long afterwards as the backlog cleared.
St. Robert and Waynesville firefighters, St. Robert city road crews and city police, and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department also assisted at the crash scene.