Wrong-way driver caused I-44 fatality crash near Strafford
A deadly head-on crash early Monday morning involved two pickups near the 90.2-mile marker, two miles east of the Strafford exit. A passenger in a pickup going the right direction died, while the driver of the wrong-way pickup is seriously injured. A minute later, a tractor-trailer truck hit the pickup that had been driving the wrong way.
The first crash, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol online report, was at 3:07 a.m. A 1992 Chevrolet S-10 pickup driven by Matthew Brungard, 32, of Marshfield, was westbound in the eastbound lanes. It hit an eastbound 2002 Dodge pickup driven by Martinez Vargas, 50, of Springdale, Ark. His passenger, Baez Vargas, 24, of Springdale, died at the scene.
At 3:08 a.m., according to the online report, an eastbound tractor trailer driven by Justin Cockerhan, 40, of Bixby, Okla., hit Brungard's disabled pickup. Cockerhan was not injured. An air ambulance took Brungard to a hospital in Springfield.
The trooper's online report doesn't say which crash injured Brungard, the wrong-way driver. Troopers don't know if he was wearing a seat belt. All the other people involved in the two crashes were wearing seat belts, according to the reports. Martinez Vargas, the driver of the pickup going the correct direction, received only minor injuries and did not need medical care at the scene.
The eastbound lanes were closed for several hours for cleanup and investigation of the accident.