Authorities continue search for driver who caused accident near Rogersville, Mo. that killed 21 year-old student teacher

Published: May. 10, 2021 at 6:32 PM CDT|Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 11:30 PM CDT
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ROGERSVILLE, Mo. (KY3) - Investigators are still seeking help from the public in finding the driver who they say caused a deadly crash near Rogersville on Friday morning. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said on Monday that they still have no new info on a dark colored SUV they’re searching for and would like anyone with information that might help them identify the driver to call them at 417-895-6868.

The victim of the crash was 21 year-old Mercedes Luna, a student-teacher at the Logan-Rogersvile Primary School that has about 400 kindergarten and first grade students. She was on her way there on Friday morning from her home in Strafford when she became involved in the accident.

“She was supposed to substitute teach for me that day,” explained first grade teacher Julie Kibby, who was a close friend of Luna from their shared church attendance. Luna had only been married for eight months and was in her final week of student teaching at Rogersville before graduating from Drury this coming weekend and heading off to a new career.

”She had a job offer from Seymour,” Kibby said. “She had a graduation party set for this Sunday.”

Luna was also known for her positive attitude.

“She was extremely happy all the time,” Kibby said.

“She was one of the kindest spirits I have ever met,” added Logan-Rogersville Primary School Principal Mandy Beckler.

But Luna never made it to school on Friday. While traveling south along a hilly stretch of Highway 125 near the Rogersville city limits, Luna’s optimistic future was cut short in mere seconds.

According to the highway patrol the driver of a dark colored SUV was trying to pass a Fed-Ex truck in a no-passing zone near the peak of a hill. Luna, coming from the opposite direction, swerved to avoid the SUV and struck the Fed-Ex truck. The SUV did not stop and authorities are still looking for the driver.

“Somebody, for reasons unknown at this time, felt the need to be passing on the hill crest,” said Sgt. Mike McClure, the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Public Information Officer. “It’s a clear case of aggressive driving. It caused the southbound driver to maneuver the best she could but lose control of the vehicle.”

Back at school it was left to the staff to deal with the ramifications of the tragedy.

“We had a classroom full of 6 and 7 year-olds who had grown to love her and count on her being there every day,” Beckler explained. “So we had to handle it very delicately. It’s really tough to navigate honestly. There are no playbooks for the right thing to do or say in a situation like this.”

“I don’t think they fully understand everything that has happened,” Kibby added. “There’s sense of fear inside them and that’s what we have to deal with.”

The adults are having a hard time understanding it too.

“It just seems so unfair,” Kibby said. “I definitely hope that they find the person who’s caused this. They’ve taken someone who is so dear to so many people. Being angry right now at least for me is not helpful so I’m trying to stay away from that as much as I can. But I know that there are a lot of angry people and so I hope that person will realize what they have done and realize that they have hurt so many people and they took away a beautiful life.”

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