David Hartman’s first memory of his neighbor Cheryl Card was of the “mother-like figure” who brought him cinnamon rolls as he moved into his new home six years ago. The last time they talked, as they often did in their backyards in Lincoln, Neb., Card was getting ready to travel with her ill husband to St. Louis where they hoped he would be approved for a life-saving lung transplant.
They never made it home.
On their way back from St. Louis, where they had left earlier that morning after a visit to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Cheryl and Kirt Card slowed in construction traffic Friday morning on Interstate 70 just east of the U.S. 63 exit. Ahead of them, in a blue minivan, was service engineer John Ferkel of St. Peters, on his way to the MU campus to do repairs.
And just then, at about 9:19 a.m., a tractor-trailer driven by Carl West of Novinger slammed into the Cards’ red Chevrolet, police said. The impact smashed in the car’s rear and knocked it into the ditch. The truck plowed forward, crushing Ferkel’s minivan into another semitrailer in front. When it was all over, the minivan’s rear chassis was wedged several feet under West’s tan truck cab.
Cheryl Card, 54, was killed in the accident. Her husband, 56, was rushed to University Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He was listed in serious condition early Saturday evening.
The driver of the minivan, Ferkel, 40, was also killed.
West and the driver of the other truck, Robert Montgomery of Lakewood, Ohio, 45, were not injured.
The crash shut down both westbound lanes of I-70 for more than four hours.
Cheryl and Kirt Card were driving from St. Louis back to Lincoln after Kirt Card had been seen by doctors for pulmonary fibrosis that had kept him housebound for the last six months. Cheryl, who was a manager at two dining halls at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told a coworker, Susan Kruce, a week ago that she was looking forward to the trip.
“They were really hoping they could be a recipient of a lung transplant,” said Kruce, who worked with Cheryl Card for the past 20 years. Kruce said that she had heard Kirt Card had been approved to receive a transplant.
Kirt Card worked in the customer service department at the University of Nebraska Press for over 20 years before retiring 3½ years ago. Witt Widhalm, who worked with him for 13 years, said Kirt Card was incredibly friendly and soft spoken who liked to joke about the demanding people they sometimes encountered at work.
“He was the nicest guy in the world,” he said. “Almost everybody loved him.”
Ferkel, the driver of the minivan, was a service engineer from Ace Electric Laboratory Systems in St. Louis for 19 years.
“He was basically the first employee we had at the company,” said owner Dave Luetkemeyer, who added that Ferkel hardly ever missed a day of work. “He had very good work ethics, very dedicated. It will definitely be a great loss to our company and all our customers.”
Ferkel had a wife, Denise, and a 9-year-old daughter, Vanessa.
Columbia Fire Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said Friday that it was still unclear if the driver of the truck was braking or slowing when it hit the red car. No charges had been filed as of Saturday evening in connection with the crash.
Police took measurements and reports Friday afternoon at the accident scene. The Columbia Police Department also took overhead photos of the accident using a ladder from one of the Fire Department trucks, Sapp said. Police plan to use computer programs and lasers on the photos to further investigate the accident.