The Missouri Department of Transportation’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the new Interstate 44 North Service Road and Highway 47 interchange project took a lot longer than expected on Friday afternoon when an accident took place immediately in front of the ceremony while it was in progress.
Two vehicles collided on Highway 47 just north of I-44 in front of the old Bartolotta’s used car sales lot shortly after the 2 p.m. ceremony got under way. The ceremony was being conducted in that lot.
One of the drivers involved was transported by St. Clair Ambulance personnel to Mercy Hospital Washington. The severity of his injuries is unknown, but he had to be extricated from his car. He had numerous cuts to his face and neck caused by flying glass from a shattered driver’s side window but remained conscious while emergency personnel were tending to him.
Mayor Ron Blum had just started speaking when the crash occurred. He had been introduced by MoDOT Area Engineer Judy Wagner.
Blum was commenting on how the project hopefully will bring retail development and safety enhancements to the area when those in attendance heard tires squeal followed by the impact of the crash. After 911 was called, several people, including Blum, Wagner and Farmers & Merchants Bank President Dave Hoffman, directed traffic around the accident scene until authorities arrived.
According to the police report, a woman not involved in the crash actually caused the accident. St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack told The Missourian that Rose Harrington of Sullivan was making an illegal left-hand turn from Miller Drive to northbound Highway 47.
She turned into the path of a northbound 2001 Nissan Sentra driven by Larry Carver, 37, of Leslie. Carver swerved to the right to avoid Harrington’s 1989 Oldsmobile, overcorrected back to the left, drove across the centerline and sideswiped a southbound 1998 Dodge Ram driven by Ronnie Harper, 59, of Rockport, Ill.
Both vehicles ended up blocking both lanes of northbound Highway 47. Carver was the individual who suffered injuries. Harper and Harrington were not injured.
The Sentra was totaled. Damage to the pickup was extensive.
Harrington was cited for failure to yield to an approaching vehicle and failure to obey a posted restricted turn sign.
After Carver was loaded into the ambulance and transported, everyone involved with the ceremony regrouped, and it continued. The ribbon was cut a few minutes later.
The road project, which was a cost-share between MoDOT and the city, eases traffic congestion and helps improve traffic flow at I-44 and Highway 47. The I-44 North Service Road was relocated north to near Angels Crossing Drive, and a traffic signal was placed there as well as at both I-44 off ramps, which were improved.
Construction on the $3.8 million project started in March 2013. Kolb Contracting was the contractor.