Kentucky family picks up the pieces after I-70 accident

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | 6:17 p.m. CDT; updated 3:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Dressed in scrubs from University Hospital, Cindy Kinsella stands next to a rental van Tuesday while five of her six children sit inside. The Kinsella family was involved in a rollover accident on I-70 on Monday morning.

COLUMBIA —The Kinsella family of Frankfort, Ky., set out Sunday for a relaxing two-week vacation across the country, but a crash west of Columbia on Monday derailed their plans.

James and Cindy Kinsella, both 46, their six children and three dogs were on their way to Cheyenne, Wyo., to visit family and were planning some stops along the way. They were driving westbound on Interstate 70 when James Kinsella lost control of their silver Ford Expedition, and the SUV, which was towing a 30-foot camper, overturned into a ditch


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"I went a little to the left, and then when I corrected to the right, it was further than I wanted to," James Kinsella said.

The accident sent Cindy Kinsella and her 22-year-old daughter, Carlee Sams, to University Hospital, but they were released Monday evening after being treated for minor scrapes and bruises.  

Sams had her seatbelt on but had loosened it to feed her 6-month-old sister, Isabella Doyle, a bottle. She was ejected from the back left window when the vehicle flipped. 

"We're sore, but we're alive," Cindy Kinsella said. "We're doing good, just trying to wrap our heads around all of this."

The Kinsellas said most of the belongings that were in the camper, including a digital camera, lenses, the family laptop and some prescription drugs, were dumped in a landfill after the accident.

"I could do without all this little stuff; it's those big things, you know," Cindy Kinsella said. "Everything that you live on, we had stored in that camper." 

Cindy Kinsella said that before leaving town on Thursday, she and her husband would like to meet face to face with the owner of I-70 Towing and Recovery, which they feel improperly disposed of their items after the accident.

John Berghager, owner of I-70 Towing, said proper protocol after crashes on the interstate is to clear the highway as soon as possible.

"I-70 is a major artery, and any time you have an accident like this, you have backup for miles,"said Berghager, who responded to the accident.

Berghager said campers often explode into pieces when they crash.

"There was just so much stuff everywhere. The campers just are not built to be overturned," Berghager said. "If it's got gas on it or oil on it or it's contaminated, we just dispose of it."

The family went to the towing company Monday night and salvaged a few items. On Tuesday, they took the camper to a location that had proper tools to peel back the walls in hopes of finding more belongings. But a comforter, a hair dryer, two pairs of socks and a shower caddy were all they could find.

Although both vehicles are covered by the family's automobile insurance, Cindy Kinsella said their belongings are not.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Tony Helfrecht, who responded to the crash Monday, said the Highway Patrol wants towing companies to be safe when cleaning up after crashes and to get the work done quickly.

"That scene was a mess, and there was nothing but stuff thrown 300 feet across the highway," Helfrecht said.

Meanwhile, the Kinsellas have been in Columbia since Monday. Most local car rental companies lack vehicles large enough to carry eight family members and three dogs. 

The Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross gave the Kinsellas a three-night stay at a local hotel and a $1,100 debit card for food and other essentials, Cindy Kinsella said. 

A member of the Kinsellas' church in Kentucky was in Columbia on Wednesday afternoon with a vehicle large enough to carry the family, and they will head home Thursday. 

"It's not a bad place," James Kinsella said of Columbia. "Everybody is bending ... over backwards to help us."

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julie shea June 23, 2011 | 7:40 a.m.

Is there a place to donate items to this family?

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer June 23, 2011 | 9:24 a.m.

Julie, that's a great question. I wish we'd found out earlier in the week. The family is scheduled to be on their way back to Kentucky today, so it's likely too late. If we hear of anything, I'll let you know.

Joy Mayer, Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Mike Bellman June 25, 2011 | 12:06 a.m.

I saw this wreckage on the side of the highway and men were piling it all up in the ditch. It was obviously someone's tiny home away from home.

I feel it's inconceivable that the towing company saw all these people's belongings and just took it to the dump. I guess putting it in a rental dumpster for a week would have just too inconvenient.

(Report Comment)

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