Truck Driver Charged In Family's Death

Tuesday, March 11th 2008, 12:35 pm
By: News On 6

A truck driver faces charges in the deaths of a family of four.  The News On 6's Chris Wright reports James Buchholz of Arizona was arrested and charged with four counts of negligent homicide.  He was driving the semi that hit a family's sedan on Highway 69 Sunday.  Everyone inside the car was killed.

The Hayes family of Joplin, Missouri, was passing through Pryor on their way to Dallas when they were hit by Buchholz's truck.  Those who live in Pryor say it was one of the worst accidents they have ever seen, but they also worry it won't be the last.

Firefighters rushed to put out the fire that consumed the Hayes' sedan, but there was little they could do.  The family, 53-year-old Robert Hayes, his 41-year old wife Melissa, and their sons, 15-year-old Taylor and 14-year-old Colby, all died.

The family was memorialized during a candlelight vigil Tuesday evening in Joplin.  Dozens of friends came to share their grief, and said the Hayes were a wonderful and caring family.

In Pryor, restaurant employees who witnessed the accident say it was horrific.

"A scene you don't want to see repeated in a lifetime.  It's one of those things, I mean, you're never prepared for it," said Jeanie McCombs of Pryor.

Still, some they are not entirely surprised by the wreck.  Highway 69 is already a major north-south trucking corridor, and semis come through town at high speeds all day.  They don't always stop at red lights.

"The light helps, but sometimes it don't.  Semis they can't get shut down sometimes fast enough," said Ashlee Ramsey of Pryor.

The big-rig traffic is only expected to increase as development intensifies at the Mid-America Industrial Park.  It will soon be home to the world's largest Gatorade plant, as well as a Google data center.  All those trucks are enough to force some in Pryor to stick to side-roads.

When it is fully operational, 500 - 700 trucks are supposed to make their way in and out of the Gatorade plant every day.

One member of the Hayes family did survive.  A third son, Michael, is serving in the Navy and is stationed in Pearl Harbor.

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Related story:

3/10/2008  Family Of Four Killed In Crash