ST. THOMAS - Authorities said three Meta residents were not wearing seat belts when they were killed Thursday evening after their car and a tractor-trailer collided head-on just north of the St. Thomas village limits.
Trooper D.R. Haslag - one of six Highway Patrol officers who investigated the accident - said Friday the investigation may never determine why a 2007 Ford Focus crossed the center line of state Route B, into the truck's path.
All three victims were in the car.
The accident happened at 5:35 p.m. Thursday, about 1.7 miles south of Lower Bottom Road's north intersection with Route B - and north of Lower Bottom Road's south intersection.
Nearly 10 hours after the collision, the patrol identified the victims as William E. Coons, 44; Wanda L. Coons, 58; and Shadrach Rowden, 12; all of Meta.
William Coons was driving the Ford Focus southbound on Route B when he crossed the center line, and into the path of a northbound International truck driven by John G. Birkner, 53, of Coulterville, Ill.
He was using his seat belt, received minor injuries and refused medical treatment at the scene.
The truck was loaded with a shipment of dog food from the Diamond Pet Foods plant in Meta, the trooper said.
The car caught fire after the head-on collision.
Initial reports said the car went down an embankment. Haslag said it really was a "small ditch."
The car was knocked about 15-20 feet off the road, ending under some trees.
Wanda Coons was ejected from the car.
Cole County Sheriff Greg White pronounced the three victims dead at the scene.
Initial reports placed the accident near the Route B bridge over the Osage River, which is several miles north of St. Thomas.
The state transportation department is rehabilitating the bridge, and traffic is limited to one direction at a time, with signals controlling the traffic movement.
But, Haslag said Friday, the bridge project was a "non-issue" and had no impact on the accident and wasn't related to its cause.
The accident initially blocked the traffic in both directions on Route B.
But Haslag praised the first responders, who quickly created a detour that "alleviated" traffic backups that often occur with accidents on two-lane roads.
During his work on the accident investigation, Haslag said he "took the detour twice" and the traffic flow was smooth both times.
Troopers didn't reopen Route B until after 1 a.m., he said - more than seven hours after the accident.
One of the patrol officers who helped with the investigation was Capt. Greg Kindle, the Troop F commander.
Earlier coverage, initially posted 6:41 a.m. Aug. 9, 2013:
ST. THOMAS - Three Meta residents were killed around 5:35 p.m. Thursday when their car and a tractor-trailer collided head-on in southern Cole County.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol identified the fatal victims in the car as William E. Coons, 44; Wanda L. Coons, 58; and Shadrach Rowden, 12.
The patrol reports William Coons was driving a Ford Focus southbound on Route B about 1.7 miles south of Lower Bottom Road when the vehicle crossed the center line and struck a northbound International truck driven by John G. Birkner, 53, of Coulterville, Ill.
Sheriff Greg White pronounced the three occupants of the car dead at the scene. Birkner sustained minor injuries but refused treatment at the scene.
Earlier coverage, initially posted Aug. 8, 2013:
ST. THOMAS, Mo. -- Three people in a car were killed about 5:30 p.m. Thursday in a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer on Route B in southern Cole County.
The car caught on fire after the collision.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol called in a special crash investigations team from St. Louis, so details of how the accident occurred were not immediately available.
But it appeared the car was heading south in the northbound lane of Route B when it collided with the northbound truck.
The names of the victims, and of the truck driver, also were not immediately released.
Cole County Sheriff Greg White said his staff was working with the patrol, and the Cole County medical examiner's office, in the investigation.
It wasn't until shortly after 1:30 a.m. Friday that public safety personnel finished and left the scene of the wreck.