Accident scene

A Douglas County inmate being transported in a law enforcement vehicle was killed Thursday afternoon in a multiple car crash on the Gardner Ford bridge south of Simmons.

Dead is Stephen L. Thompson, 61, of Dora, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

Officers said Thompson was riding in a southbound 2008 Dodge Charger driven by Deputy Steven W. Zehner, 29 of Mansfield, when it was struck by a trailer pulled by a northbound 1998 Dodge Ram driven by Gary Miller, 65, of Cabool.

The patrol said the trailer earlier crossed the centerline and was struck by trailer truck driven by James G. Wise, 47, of Louisburg; and a 2006 Chevrolet Colorado operated by Karen F. Winegar, 62, of Pocatello, Ind. Both were traveling south.

The trailer later became separated and struck the deputy’s car, the patrol said.

Five minutes later, Miller returned to the scene after losing the towed unit, left the roadway and drove onto the shoulder and struck two parked vehicles, which were driven by Michael S. Fuge, 23, of Mansfield; and Jessica S. Crawford, 21, of Harrisburg, Ark. Fuge’s car was totaled; Crawford’s car had extensive damage.

Miller was taken to TCMH with moderate injuries; and Fuge arrived at TCMH with minor injuries.

The accident closed U.S. 63 for a time.

Texas County Coroner Thomas Whittaker declared the man, who was being transported by a Douglas County deputy, dead at the scene. The body was released to an Ava funeral home. 

The deputy was taken to Texas County Memorial Hospital with moderate injuries. He was wearing a seat belt. It was not known if the inmate was restrained, the patrol said.

Authorities from several agencies were called to scene. Debris from a trailer involved in the wreck was scattered on the highway and along the right-of-way, which overlooks the Big Piney River. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Texas County Rescue Squad and firemen from Cabool and Houston were called to the scene amid heavy rain. The patrol had nine officers at the scene, according to a report.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol report on the crash

Second patrol report

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