Police report scores of accidents; four die in Mississippi County

Friday, December 9, 2005

Thursday's winter storm left four dead on Southeast Missouri roadways and disrupted morning traffic along U.S. 61 in Jackson.

Police in Cape Girardeau and Jackson reported more than 50 collisions due to the snow, with dozens of other vehicles sliding off roads. The Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to 70 accidents in the 13-county Troop E region, said Sgt. Larry Plunkett.

Separate accidents in Mississippi County killed four people, Plunkett said.

A collision between a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle killed three people on Interstate 57 around noon, he said. In that accident, a Jeep ran out of control into the truck, killing Marilyn Wilson, 48, her son Michael Williams, 29, and Peggy Shannon, 42, all of Sikeston. The Jeep crossed the median and struck the truck driven by Mickie Lamastus, 51, of Monett, Mo. He suffered minor injuries.

And a single-car accident east of Wyatt, Mo., at about 7:30 a.m. took the life of Lawrence E. Vinson, 64, of Wyatt.

Other major accidents in the region included serious injuries to Damien Heuring, 20, of Benton, Mo., who ran his Jeep of Interstate 55 six miles north of Sikeston.

And a Greyhound bus ran into the back of Missouri Department of Transportation snowplow in Wayne County, injuring eight passengers on the bus, Plunkett said.

Large trucks were unable to climb the hills on Highway 61 in Jackson, forcing police to attempt to divert traffic onto Old Cape Road, said Capt. Bob Bonney of the Jackson Police Department.

"We tried to reroute them through Old Cape to have them come out through the uptown area and bypass everything," Bonney said. "That didn't go well, either."

Cape Girardeau police responded to every accident call and every request for assistance, spokesman Jason Selzer said. But at the height of the storm, many motorists were forced to wait as officers worked on other accidents, he said.

The snow storm, which dropped 2 to 3 inches on the region, combined with nearly a week of cold to quickly make roads treacherous, Plunkett said.

Many motorists probably thought the small amount of snow wouldn't be as much of a problem, Selzer said. "When it is not as heavy people think they can still get out and do things," he said.

Road conditions had improved by late afternoon, as the snowfall moved out of the area, Plunkett said. But there will be patchy ice on roadways, he said as daily thaw and refreezing occurs. "Everyone needs to drive extra cautiously," Plunkett said.

In addition to the four Southeast Missouri deaths, the storm is blamed for a car accident death in Boone County and suspected in a fatal vehicle crash in near St. Joseph, Mo.

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