There were two empty chairs at Rock Bridge Elementary School on Monday after a two-car accident Saturday claimed the lives of two Columbia children and an adult from Georgia.
Sylvester Donte Bradford, 9, and Justin Lee Bradford, 8, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on Interstate 70 in eastern Callaway County. Evelyn Starr, 65, a passenger in a second car and resident of Somerville, Ga., was also pronounced dead at the scene on Saturday afternoon.
The two drivers, Debra Bradford, 35, of Columbia, and Michael Cheny, 40, of Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, were flown to University Hospital. Both were listed in critical condition Monday evening.
The accident occurred at 4:50 p.m. Saturday when Bradford, who was driving westbound on I-70 near the border of Callaway and Montgomery counties, crossed the center median, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“It was raining, and the roads were very slick,” said Jeff Bidroski, who witnessed the crash as he was driving west on I-70 to his home in Omaha, Neb.
Bradford’s red GMC van veered to the left, into the median and went airborne off the rain-soaked grass, landing on Cheny’s vehicle in the eastbound lane, Bidroski said.
A semitrailer swerved out of the way, narrowly missing the wreck as debris flew in all directions, Bidroski said.
“From what I saw, there wasn’t much left of either vehicle,” Bidroski said. “All I saw was a coat arm hanging out of the car.”
Counseling was available Monday to students at Rock Bridge Elementary where Sylvester was in third grade and Justin was in second grade. Principal Mary Korth-Lloyd also sent letters of explanation home to parents.
“They were wonderful kids, and we were lucky to have had them,” Korth-Lloyd said.