A Carthage restaurant owner was one of two people killed in a tragic wrong-way driver accident on I-44 near Sarcoxie on Saturday.
John Washburn, 58, Asbury, was traveling east on I-44 with his wife, Deborah Washburn, 49, and daughters Abby Washburn, 19; Samantha Washburn, 13; and Karli Washburn, 12, east on Interstate 44 when their SUV was hit head on by a pickup truck, driven by Bonnie Weaver, 75, Tulsa, and traveling west in the eastbound lane.
According to his page on the social networking site Facebook, Washburn was an independent restaurant owner who owns the Gringos restaurants in Carthage, Joplin and Neosho.
His last post on his page on Saturday morning said the family was leaving to take their oldest daughter back to college in St. Louis.
A patrol accident report said John Washburn and Weaver were declared dead at the scene, while Deborah Washburn and her three children were seriously injured.
Missouri State Police Sgt. Mike Watson said the accident happened at 12:25 near mile marker 26, a mile east of the Sarcoxie/Reeds exit.
Watson said travelers started calling 9-1-1 and reporting the wrong-way driver at 12:18 p.m. near the mile marker 32.
He said there is an exit at that location, but officers don’t know if that’s where Weaver first got on the interstate.
“We occasionally get calls about wrong-way drivers, but usually, by the time we get there, the driver has figured out something is wrong and found their way back around in the right direction,” Watson said. “Unfortunately, when there is a crash, it’s usually severe, just because of the higher speeds involved on the interstate.”
Watson said in cases where the driver dies, investigators rely on witnesses to try to sort out where the driver got on the interstate, but figuring out why they continued driving is almost impossible.
Family members have put a page on Facebook with updates on the conditions of the surviving family members. The page had gained more than 5,300 likes in 18 hours.
On it, family members said Deborah Washburn and Abby Washburn were taken to Mercy Springfield Hospital, while Karli and Samantha, who were more severely injured, were taken to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Watson said he could not speculating about what happened in this case, but he did offer some general safety precautions people should remember any time they get into their car.
He said people should work to minimize distractions in their car before they start driving, and always wear seatbelts.
“Some things are just unavoidable,” Watson said. “And the unavoidable is why we wear our seatbelt.”