Armored car crashes on Interstate 55

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Cape Girardeau emergency workers stabilized one of two passengers of an armored car which overturned on I-55. (Photo by John Sachen of the Delta Fire Protection District)

An accident involving an armored vehicle and a PT Cruiser shut down northbound lanes of Interstate 55 near the Kingshigway exit for approximately two hours Tuesday morning.

According to the Cape Girardeau Police Department, the armored vehicle, owned by PSI Armored Inc., was traveling southbound on I-55 when it crossed the median into the northbound lane, striking the PT Cruiser head-on. The accident occurred around 10 a.m.

The four victims involved received moderate to serious injuries and were taken by ambulance to Saint Francis Medical Center. The driver of the armored vehicle was Kenneth Hansel, 43, and the passenger was Dwayne Bryan Walker, 29, both of St. Louis. New Madrid residents Nina G. Neal, 32, and Richard Keith Neal, 37, were in the PT Cruiser.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, said Cape Girardeau police spokesman Jason Selzer. Initial responders to the accident believe the cause may have been a mechanical failure in the armored vehicle.

Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Aaron Harrison was driving southbound on I-55 toward Scott County for a court appearance when he came upon the accident, minutes after it occurred.

"I just happened to be at the right place at the right time," he said. "Or right place at the wrong time."

Harrison said he believes this is the first major accident of the new year.

The armored vehicle had just made drops at various banks in Cape Girardeau.

"They were just doing their normal business," Harrison said.

Cape Girardeau battalion fire chief Bob Campbell said it was difficult to remove the victims out of the armored vehicle, which landed on the driver's side.

"In my 30 years, I've never worked an accident with an armored vehicle involved," Campbell said. "It really was a chore."

Firefighters had to remove a 1-inch-thick bulletproof windshield from the armored vehicle to remove the victims, which took approximately 30 minutes.

Doug Stevenson, a driver for Poling Transportation, was on his way to Omaha, Neb. when he pulled up to the accident on I-55 north. Trooper Harrison was the only responder to the accident at that time.

"I went over to try and help out," Stevenson said. "The guy from the PT Cruiser was laying on the ground and moaning. He looked like he was hurt pretty bad."

Northbound I-55 traffic was diverted onto Kingshighway for approximately two hours until the wreckage was removed from the interstate.

The Missouri Highway Patrol reported another accident on I-55 shut down northbound traffic near Portageville for approximately 10 hours on Tuesday.

The one-vehicle accident involved a tractor trailer, which overturned onto the interstate. A highway patrol spokesperson said the Missouri Department of Natural Resources was called in to clean up flammable materials leaking from the truck.

All northbound traffic was diverted from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. onto the Wardell exit off I-55.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

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