One of the deadliest automobile crashes in recent memory occurred after a mid-Missouri man turned the wrong way on Highway 63 north of Columbia, according to a crash report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The wrong-way driver may have been driving south in the northbound lanes for some time.
One motorist told the Missourian that the misplaced driver passed her in a northbound lane a few miles north of where the horrific crash occurred.
Scarlett McMullen said when she called 911 to report the wrong-way driver, the dispatcher explained that others had called about the same emergency.
The Monday night head-on crash on Highway 63 near Finger Lakes State Park resulted in the death of three adults and a 10-year-old child. Three other children were seriously injured in the crash, which was reported at 7:28 p.m.
Jessica McKinlay, 29, of Columbia, whose vehicle was carrying an adult and four young children, was killed in the crash. Also killed were her passengers Christopher McClain, 34, of Columbia and a 10-year-old girl whose name police have not released.
Three other unidentified children — girls ages 2 and 3, and a 6-year-old boy — were taken to University Hospital with serious injuries.
The wrong-way driver, Keith Sumner, 19, of Rocheport, was also killed, police said. A man with that name was enrolled in MU during the fall semester, a university spokesperson said.
Sumner also attended Hickman High School.
According to the report, Sumner was the lone occupant of his 2017 Hyundai Elantra and was traveling southbound in a northbound lane of Highway 63. His vehicle hit McKinlay’s Ford Escape head on.
Police did not report how fast the vehicles were believed to be traveling at the time of the crash.
The report said McKinlay and Sumner were wearing seat belts, but McClain and the four children were not using safety devices.
Two of the passengers in the Escape were thrown from the vehicle by the impact of the collision, according to the crash report. Those two passengers weren’t identified.
A GoFundMe has been started by Hannah Gray with the intention of covering funeral costs for McKinlay as well as provide assistance for her family and the children in the hospital. The donations will go to McKinlay’s mother, Brenda Freeman, or directly to the funeral home.
McMullen told the Missourian she was driving north on Highway 63, toward Moberly. She said she saw headlights in the distance but figured they were on the southbound side — only to soon realize the approaching car was on the northbound side of the highway.
She said she drove over a slight hill when the driver zoomed past her going the wrong way.
“It happened so fast,” McMullen said.
After this encounter, McMullen called 911. She said the dispatcher told her other calls had also come in about the driver.