One dead after SUV smashes into tractor-trailer near Emerson bridge

Tuesday, July 1, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ Firefighters attend to the scene of a fatal wreck between a sport utility vehicle and semi on Illinois Highway 146.

The driver of a Chevy Blazer died in a fiery crash late Monday afternoon just east of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

Emergency officials could only confirm that there was one person in the SUV, which burst into flames after striking a westbound tractor-trailer and a Dodge minivan after crossing the center line on Illinois Highway 146 about a half-mile east of the bridge.

The charred wreck of the SUV came to rest in the median of the highway near the East Cape Girardeau city limits. Firefighters from Cape Girardeau and McClure, Ill., responded to the scene, as did police from Cape Girardeau, deputies from the Alexander County Sheriff's Department and troopers from the Illinois State Police.

Rescue workers were also unable to confirm whether the deceased motorist was a man or a woman.

The wreck occurred shortly before 6:30 p.m. when the Blazer veered from the eastbound lane into oncoming traffic, said David Way, driver of the USF Holland tractor-trailer. The badly damaged truck lost both front wheels, left a trail of debris from the accident site and came to rest on the shoulder with smashed fuel tanks and the engine hood ripped away.

Way was on his way from Murphysboro, Ill., to make one more stop before returning with his truck to Sikeston, Mo. The Blazer "crossed the line and hit me," Way said. "She crossed, swerved in to hit me and I had no brakes." Way pointed to a large brake master cylinder torn from the truck and laying in the highway.

The Dodge minivan was carrying a group of four St. Louis-area residents home from a visit to North Carolina, said Vince Vacca, a retired Mehlville, Mo., firefighter who was driving the van. The van carried Vacca's girlfriend, her sister and brother-in-law. The three passengers were taken from the scene by ambulance.

Vacca said he saw the wreck unfold in front of his van and had only a split-second to react. "It happened so fast," he said.

The Blazer seemed to be aimed directly at the van until it hit the semi-truck, Vacca said. "He had us dead to rights," he said. "That car came from over there and just shot across."

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Fatal crash near bridge

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