April 2012 Archives

Republic Man Killed, Arkansas Police Chief Critically Injured in Separate Motorcycle Crashes Last Weekend

As the weather continues to warm, drivers in Springfield, Missouri and the surrounding areas can expect to see more and more motorcycles on the road. At this time of year, we would all do well to use extra caution: not only are motorcycle riders considerably harder to see than passenger vehicles, they're also considerably more vulnerable to serious injuries when auto collisions occur.

780445_no_destiny.jpgRecent Motorcycle Accident Headlines

Crash near Republic kills one, injures one

The Missouri Highway Patrol reports that 35 year-old Casey Jameson died on Saturday night after a pickup truck collided with his motorcycle. According to the crash report, Jameson ran a stop sign on Farm Road 156 near Republic and his bike was broadsided by the oncoming truck.

Jameson was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, 34 year-old Sheila Olmstead, was seriously injured: Olmstead was taken by ambulance to Cox South in Springfield. The pickup truck driver was not injured. As required by state law, that driver was tested for alcohol, but police do not believe that drinking played a role in the crash. Neither Jameson nor Olmstead were wearing helmets.

Lowell Police Chief In Critical Condition

On Friday night, Arkansas Police Chief Joe Landers suffered critical injuries in a motorcycle accident in Panama City, where he was attending a bike rally. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a drunk driver pulled out in front of Landers' Harley, and the Chief was unable to avoid a collision. The Harley struck the vehicle, and Landers was ejected over the bike's handlebars.

The at-fault driver left the scene, but was later located and arrested: 52 year-old Jimmy John Cristo is now facing multiple charges, including fleeing the scene of a critical injury accident, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Additional charges are pending. "From speaking to the trooper, the gentleman pretty much confessed to drinking, confessed to causing the accident, confessed to leaving the scene," said Sergeant Paul Pillaro.

This evening, several motorcycle groups (including Florida law enforcement representatives) have planned a ride to honor Landers, who was described as an expert rider, and who regularly rode a motorcycle for the Lowell Police Department. Landers was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, although his colleagues say he wore a helmet without exception when he was on the job. (In Florida, there is no helmet law for riders over the age of 20.)

Continue reading "Republic Man Killed, Arkansas Police Chief Critically Injured in Separate Motorcycle Crashes Last Weekend" »

Iowa Mom Arrested for Drunk Driving After Teen Daughter Calls 911 From Car

1252046_beer_glass.jpgThe average drunk driver get behind the wheel an average of 80 times before their first arrest, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It appears that an Iowa woman's luck recently ran out: she was arrested for driving drunk after her teen daughter - and her passenger - called the police. And then, just over four weeks later, she was arrested again.

On the evening of March 15 at about 8:10 p.m., a 911 dispatcher in Oxford, Iowa took a call from a frightened young woman. The teen was calling from a vehicle to report her mother for drunk driving.

On the recording of the call, the mother, 47 year-old Lori Ann Becicka, can be heard in the background, asking her daughter who she's calling. "Umm, I was talking to 911 because Dad said to call them," the girl responds. She repeatedly tells her mother to stop. The dispatcher tries to keep her calm: "You can leave the line open, hon, if you don't want to talk on the phone. If you want to act like you're hanging up, you can just leave it open and I can follow you," the dispatcher says.

Listen to the 911 recording.

Eventually, a sheriff's deputy located the vehicle. Becicka pulled into a trucking company's parking lot and immediately got out of the car, according to the official criminal complaint. The deputy noted that her eyes were watery and bloodshot, her speech was slurred, her balance was poor, and she smelled strongly of alcohol. She failed a field sobriety test, and her blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.235%, nearly 3 times the legal limit.

View the March 15 criminal complaint.

At the scene, Becicka's daughter told the deputy that her mother had also been consuming alcohol while driving, and several open containers were found in the vehicle. Becicka was arrested for drunk driving and endangering the welfare of child.

Then, on April 25, Becicka was arrested again. Once again, she immediately got out of the car. Once again, the officer noted bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the strong smell of alcohol. Once again, empty beer cans were found inside Becicka's vehicle. And once again, she was arrested for drunk driving.

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Weekend Accidents in Missouri Work Zones Cause 1 Fatality, Multiple Injuries

file0002020719295.jpgHere in Springfield, our drivers are no strangers to work zones. In recent years, we've seen massive projects on heavily traveled roadways, including Highway 65, James River Freeway, Kansas Expressway and Campbell Avenue, just to name a few. While the end results have meant drastic improvements to traffic flow, the construction process can be frustrating to drivers. Unfortunately, it can also create an increased risk for car accidents.

Recent Accidents in Missouri Work Zones

April 19: Last Thursday, a chain reaction accident on Highway 6 near Novinger, MO caused minor injuries to 3 drivers - and major traffic headaches for several others. The Missouri Highway Patrol reports that two vehicles were stopped at the edge of the work zone, waiting to be flagged through a one-lane section of roadway. A third vehicle approaching the zone rear-ended the second car, causing it to strike the first car. All 3 drivers were taken by ambulance, treated at a local hospital, and released.

April 20: A driver was killed last Friday morning in the Interstate 270 work zone (between I-44 and Manchester Road, in St. Louis County). 37 year-old Ronald Schuh was traveling north when another vehicle changed lanes and struck his car. The force of the impact caused both vehicles to travel across all 4 lanes of traffic: Schuh's car was thrown into a rock bluff, where it overturned. The second vehicle eventually collided with a median wall and a parked Missouri Department of Transportation truck. Schuh was taken by ambulance, but he later died as a result of his injuries. The Highway Patrol's crash report does not list the second driver as being injured. Traffic was backed up for several hours after the accident.

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to Host National Work Zone Week Event

As summer approaches, Missouri drivers can expect to see even more construction work zones on roadways throughout the state. According to KCTV 5, MoDOT is planning to begin construction on more than 800 Missouri bridges in the months ahead - almost every bridge in the state will see new construction. Safety practices in these areas, then, will be of the utmost concern to Missouri drivers.

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Bolivar Teen Killed, 2 Ava Residents Seriously Injured in Separate Run-Off-Road Crashes Last Weekend

file0001093550825.jpgAccording to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 70% of fatal single-vehicle car accidents are ROR wrecks, meaning run-off-road. Over the weekend, 2 of these accidents happened right here in southern Missouri.

On Saturday evening, 17 year-old Jordan K. Farr was northbound on Morrisville Road when he ran off the roadway. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, Farr's 2004 Mazda 6 struck a ditch, which caused the vehicle to flip and then overturn several times. Farr was taken to Citizens Memorial Hospital, but he was pronounced dead about an hour after the crash. He was not wearing a seat belt, according to the crash report.

Meanwhile, 3 people were injured (2 of them seriously) after a similar one-car accident in Douglas County. The driver in that accident - 21 year-old Ryan K. Swearingin - also ran off the road, and his 1999 Chevy S-10 also flipped over. Swearingin was ejected from the pickup and was one of the seriously injured occupants: he and his passenger, 17 year-old Shon Gossett, were flown to Cox South Hospital in Springfield. The pickup's other occupant, 15 year-old Misty David, suffered minor injuries and was also taken to Cox. No one in the truck was wearing a seatbelt.

On average, 1 in 5 car accidents are single-vehicle roadway crashes: Forbes.com reports that this kind of accident is even more dangerous than a head-on collision or a T-bone crash. A 2011 report from NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis presented the following data:

• In single-vehicle ROR crashes, the most prevalent causal factor was driver performance error (27.7%).

• The other common causes for these accidents are also directly linked to driver behaviors: 25.4% were caused by driver decision errors; 22.5% were caused by critical nonperformance errors; and 19.8% were caused by driver recognition errors.

• So, what causes drivers to make these mistakes? In single-vehicle ROR crashes involving passenger vehicles, NHTSA reports that 14.3% were caused by internal distraction; 13.6% were caused by overcompensation (or overcorrection); 12% were caused by poor directional control; 10.5% were caused by speed (traveling "too fast for curve"); and 9.8% were caused by drivers falling asleep.

Continue reading "Bolivar Teen Killed, 2 Ava Residents Seriously Injured in Separate Run-Off-Road Crashes Last Weekend" »

Purdy Teen Pleads Guilty to 1st Degree Involuntary Manslaughter, Faces 7 Years in Prison for Fatal DWI Accident

565345_drinking.jpgYesterday, a teenager from Purdy, Missouri pleaded guilty to first-degree involuntary manslaughter, and she is now facing up to 7 years in prison. The charges stem from a terrible car crash that happened 2 years ago on Missouri 76: Sierra Wood, now 19, was traveling near Cassville when she ran off the road and rolled her vehicle. Her passenger and friend, 17 year-old Jessica Pettengill, was killed. Afterward, she admitted she had been drinking. Wood was expected to stand trial beginning Wednesday morning, but instead, she decided to enter a guilty plea. She will be sentenced in June.

Meanwhile, the Missouri Highway Patrol recently announced that it will participate in additional enforcement initiatives aimed at catching drunk drivers throughout the month of April. Captain Juan Villanueva, Troop D's commanding officer, announced plans for a sobriety checkpoint in Stone County in addition to saturation efforts in Stone, Dallas and Lawrence Counties.

Our lawyers have discussed the differing opinions about the usefulness of law enforcement initiatives like these, but here in Greene County, they've proven to be reasonably effective. Over St. Patrick's Day weekend, the Springfield Police Department also conducted a sobriety checkpoint at Campbell Avenue and Meadowmere Street here in Springfield: by the end of the night, they had cited 10 drivers for driving under the influence. The Greene County Sheriff's Department cited 2 additional suspected drunk drivers on the same evening.

We all know that we shouldn't drink and drive because drunk drivers kill innocent people, including residents of Springfield and the surrounding areas. In 2010, 218 people were killed by drunk drivers in Missouri, meaning a fatal drinking related crash killed a Missourian every 2.2 hours. In that same year, an additional 3.823 people suffered injuries in accidents involving impaired drivers. All of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented.

Continue reading "Purdy Teen Pleads Guilty to 1st Degree Involuntary Manslaughter, Faces 7 Years in Prison for Fatal DWI Accident " »

Missouri Highway Patrol Seeks Information Regarding Fatal Hit & Run Accident: Willard Teen Killed

1028507_dark_skies_ii.jpgThe Missouri Highway Patrol is asking for the public's assistance regarding a tragic hit and run accident that killed 18 year-old Steeler Seaburn last Thursday night. Seaburn, a senior at Willard High School, was found lying on Farm Road 94 near Stick Horse Lane, and pronounced dead at the scene. According to the Patrol, an unknown vehicle was traveling north when it struck Seaburn, who was walking along the road. The accident occurred sometime between 11:30 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 a.m. Friday.

It is not known why Seaburn was walking on Farm Road 94: his car was found nearby with the flashers on and the driver's side door open. Initially, police believed that his vehicle had broken down, but it was found to be operational. Sgt. Jason Pace of the Missouri Highway Patrol says troopers are currently looking for anyone who might have seen anything near the accident scene: if you have any information, you can contact the Patrol at (417) 895-6868.

Seaburn was an active, popular student: he was a starting defensive back/ wide receiver for the Willard High School football team and an all-state wrestler. His wrestling coach, Kiiler Stephens, says that Seaburn was an exemplary athlete and team leader who always made people laugh. "He was the funniest human I've ever met," Stephens told the Springfield News Leader. "The kids loved him. He always had a smile at whatever he was doing."

The Willard School District was closed on Friday and remains closed today for the Easter holiday, but that didn't stop students from coming to campus to honor Seaburn, according to Willard Athletic Director Jeff Staley. "Steeler was an incredible young man who will never be forgotten. In these situations, kids rally around each other better than adults do sometimes," Staley said.

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Recent Motorcycle Accidents Cause Injuries, Fatalities in Webster County, Missouri & Throughout the Ozarks

file4651285361484.jpgOur Nixa, Missouri auto accident lawyers are amazed by the number of motorcycle accidents in the news in recent weeks. Consider these accidents (all of which occurred last weekend alone):

• Just after 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, 63 year-old John R. McAlister was traveling east on Highway 60 (4 miles east of Seymour) when he slowed to make a right turn. Subsequently, his 2005 Harley Davidson was rear-ended by a 2005 Mustang: McAlister and his passenger, 29 year-old Amy L. Daughtery, were both ejected from the motorcycle. McAlister was pronounced dead at the scene, while Daughtery sustained serious injuries and was air lifted to Cox South Hospital in Springfield.

The driver of the Mustang, 22 year-old Ty J. James, was not listed as injured on the Missouri Highway Patrol's crash report. James was tested for alcohol under the terms of Missouri law, and the crash remains under investigation.

• On Sunday evening, Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino was injured in a motorcycle accident on Arkansas Highway 16, approximately 20 miles southeast of Fayetteville, on a stretch of roadway that is popular with local motorcycle enthusiasts. According to state police, Petrino's motorcycle ran off the road and crashed near Crosses, AR. No other vehicles were involved in the accident, reports a statement from Petrino's family. He has been hospitalized, but not much more is known about the accident at this time.

• Early Monday morning, a Springfield motorcyclist suffered serious injuries when he struck a guardrail on South Scenic Avenue, under the old railroad overpass near South Creek. He was knocked unconscious and was taken by ambulance with serious injuries. The guard rail was installed about a year ago because so many accidents happen in that location.

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, there are more than 138,900 registered motorcycles in our state, and more than 326,300 licensed motorcyclists. In the current economy, motorcycles are especially popular: they can be purchased for a relatively low initial cost; their fuel efficiency is high; and, as an added bonus, many people enjoy riding motorcycles as a form of recreation. The down side: motorcyclists are considerably more vulnerable to car accident injuries than the occupants of closed vehicles, like passenger cars and trucks.

Continue reading "Recent Motorcycle Accidents Cause Injuries, Fatalities in Webster County, Missouri & Throughout the Ozarks" »

Stone County Pedestrian, Age 5, Suffers Fatal Injuries After Being Struck by SUV

file000147360202.jpgOur Springfield, Missouri car accident lawyers were saddened to hear about the death of a young girl in Stone County who ran in front of an oncoming vehicle. It happened on Saturday night, north of Cape Fair. Family members of 5 year-old Sahara Blevins say that the little girl ran down their driveway, which declines steeply into State Highway 173: they speculate that Sahara may have been going too fast to stop herself before darting into the roadway. Sahara, who was deaf, would not have heard a vehicle approaching, nor could she have seen it, because of a blind spot on that section of the highway. She was struck by Jeep Cherokee pulling a utility trailer.

Read the Missouri Highway Patrol's official crash report.

Sahara was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, but she ultimately died as a result of her injuries. The driver and his passenger were not injured. As is required by Missouri law, law enforcement officials tested the driver for alcohol, but they do not believe alcohol was a factor in the accident. "Right over the top at a hill is a blind spot, a bad spot, and the driver...had nothing he could do," according to Lieutenant Bob Ramsell of the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District. "He did everything he could to avoid her."

Warm, comfortable temperatures have come early to the Ozarks this year: motorists can expect to see children outside shooting baskets, or riding bikes, or simply playing with their friends. We urge drivers to exercise extreme caution by driving defensively and keeping a constant lookout. It only takes a moment for a child to run into the street, chasing a stray ball; or to fall into your path after crashing his or her bike. Slow down, especially in residential areas. And always be prepared to stop.

1027562_slow_down_please_here_live_the_people.jpgChildren as Pedestrians & Car Accidents: The Facts

• In 2009, an estimated 13,000 children ages 15 and under were injured as pedestrians in vehicle collisions, while 1/5 (19%) of all children between the ages of 5 and 9 who were killed in car accidents were pedestrians.

• Of child pedestrian fatalities, 74% occur at non-intersection locations, and 42% occur between 4:00 p.m. and 7:59 p.m.

• A staggering number of child pedestrians are injured in their own driveways. Of non-fatal back-over injuries in children as pedestrians, 50% occur at home, and 4 out of 5 injured were ages 4 or under.

Continue reading "Stone County Pedestrian, Age 5, Suffers Fatal Injuries After Being Struck by SUV" »