Pickup strikes horse and buggy on Hwy. AT

Photo by Shari Harris
This Shafer Road sign was portrayed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 2018 after the accidents involving horse drawn buggies. There is often significant distance between these signs, so remember to stay alert.
By Shari Harris,

Three Missouri accidents in nine days resulted in four child fatalities, four children with serious injuries, three adults with serious injuries, and many other children and adults with less than serious injuries.
On Friday, July 19, at 6:05 p.m., Ronald D. Thomas, age 60, of Licking, struck a horse drawn buggy in the rear on Highway AT five miles northwest of Licking. Mattie Nunschwander, age 39, of Licking was driving the buggy. She received serious injuries in the crash and was transported by air ambulance to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. Two children, Jonas Nunschwander, age 4, and Sam Nunschwander, age 6, were passengers in the buggy and also received serious injuries. They were both transported by air ambulance to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Friday’s terrible accident occurred slightly over a week after a tragic accident involving a horse drawn buggy. On July 11, at 6:45 a.m., Christopher W. Kazmierczak, age 16, of Fredericktown, struck a horse drawn buggy with his Chevrolet Silverado 2500 pickup in St. Francois County. Mervin H. Shirk, age 7, was a passenger in the buggy and received fatal injuries as a result of the crash. Two other children in the buggy, Miriam H. Shirk, age 10, and Titus H. Shirk, age 12, received serious injuries and were transported by Air Evac Medical Service to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Dorcas H. Shirk, age 21 and Alice H. Shirk, age 50 also received serious injuries and were taken by ambulance to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Allen H. Shirk, age 19, was driving the buggy and received minor injuries and was treated on the scene. The MSHP report indicated Kasmierczak was inattentive to the roadway ahead and failed to see the buggy, striking it in the rear and ejecting everyone from the buggy.
Tragic accidents do not have to involve a horse and buggy. On July 18, just a quarter mile west of the Springfield city limits on westbound I-44, a triple fatality crash occurred when a 2013 Volvo truck driven by Erskine R. Pickwick, age 60, of Winchester, Va., was attempting to pull back onto the interstate after being stopped on the shoulder when it pulled into the path of a 2014 Ford van, driven by Claudia Dobos, 35, of Clever. Dobos swerved to avoid the truck but struck the trailer and the truck then ran off the roadway into the median and struck the cable barrier. Despite the use of safety devices, three occupants were ejected from the van due to the damage caused to the vehicle during the crash. Olivia Dobos, age 8, Angelina Dobos, age 7, and Julia Dobos, age 6 were pronounced deceased. Four other children sustained minor injuries and one sustained moderate injuries in the crash, varying in age from 0 to 12 years, and the driver, Claudia Dobos, also sustained moderate injuries.
Accidents involving motor vehicles and buggies are not new to the Licking area. Two accidents in 2018 received national interest when they involved the same driver, with the Washington Post, Newsweek, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and others picking up the story and starting a discussion of whether elderly drivers should receive additional testing of their driving ability.
And Missouri isn’t alone. On June 7, 2019, in Michigan, a drunk driver struck a horse drawn buggy on the side of a highway, ejecting all seven people from the buggy and resulting in the death of a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old, with a 4-year-old receiving life-threatening injuries and a 3-year-old and adult woman also receiving injuries.
Tragedies occur despite everyone’s best efforts. But some tragedies occur because drivers don’t use their best efforts. Most will admit they have driven distracted, or when they are not at their best. Accidents can happen to anyone - less experienced drivers, more experienced drivers, drunk drivers, sober drivers, elderly drivers with slower reflexes, young drivers with fast reflexes. Take an extra minute, use some extra caution, and let’s stop this string of unnecessary injuries and fatalities.



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