Mark Tiburzi was on his way to the Brentwood Promenade from Chesterfield when he got stuck in traffic on Highway 40 (Interstate 64) and in the path of a tractor-trailer loaded with scrap aluminum.
The truck ran into, and over, a line of 10 vehicles just before the Interstate 270 exchange.
His Toyota Camry was crushed and Tiburzi, a district sales manager for Famous Footwear, suffered severe brain trauma. "I talk to him all the time, but he doesn't talk back," said his wife of 25 years, Cheri Tiburzi of St. Peters.
Her 53-year-old husband lives at a nursing home. He can breathe on his own, but he needs a feeding tube. She doesn't know what his future holds.
"I've lost part of myself," she said. "A part of me is gone."
Her husband was one of 15 people hurt in the July 15 wreck that killed three others.
Thursday will mark the six-month anniversary of the crash. No charges have been filed against the truck driver, Jeffrey R. Knight of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Authorities have only described Knight as being inattentive, but a Missouri Highway Patrol report has revealed he admitted to an investigator that he was distracted by a cell phone.
In the report, Knight is quoted as saying, "I reached across the dash to get my cell phone. I flipped the phone open, looked back at traffic, and I was there right at the last car (in the line of cars stuck in traffic). I didn't see any brake lights or emergency flashers. After I hit the first car, I just remember holding the steering wheel and seeing cars going to my left and right."
Karen Kuebrich, a nurse who stopped at the accident scene to help, told police that Knight had said, "I am sorry. This probably would not have happened if I would not have been on my cell phone," the report says.
Another witness told the Post-Dispatch that he had been driving next to the semi, which he estimated was going about 75 mph and did not slow as it approached traffic.
A 140-page Highway Patrol report compiled by an accident reconstruction team is complete, but a separate report done by the officer at the scene is not, said Sgt. Julie Scerine, a department spokeswoman.
She said investigators had to interview many witnesses and all the drivers involved, as well as review log books and wait for a federal audit of the trucking company that employed the driver. She said "several violations" were found, but would not elaborate.
"What they're trying to do is prove criminal negligence," she said.
The patrol hopes to turn the case over to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney's office by early February. That office will determine what, if any, charges should be filed.
Don Schneider, a spokesman in the prosecutor's office, said accidents involving multiple fatalities seldom wrap up quickly.
Prosecutors waited just over six months to charge an Imperial man with five counts of felony involuntary manslaughter for driving his dump truck into a minivan and killing the five people inside who were headed home from Six Flags St. Louis in July 2005. The driver, Thomas Miskel, pleaded guilty and served nine months of a one-year sentence.
As of Friday, five victims from the crash on Highway 40 had filed lawsuits in St. Louis County against Knight and Holmes Transport, the company Knight drove for, court records show. None has been resolved. Gary Wiseman, the St. Louis attorney representing Knight and the company, declined to comment.
Tom and Melissa Garthwaite, of Marion, Iowa, were driving to Mississippi to pick up their daughter, who'd spent the last couple of weeks there with her grandparents.
"I remember looking back and seeing them (the cars) wrecking, and I turned the wheel to get away, but it was too fast," said Melissa Garthwaite, who was driving.
She and her husband were treated and released from the emergency room that night, as was their 5-year-old son Owen, who was sleeping in his car seat - he only had scratches on the back of each ankle, she said.
"Compared to everybody else, we came out lucky," Tom Garthwaite said. "We're sore once in awhile, but nothing like it could have been."
Two of those killed were Amish from northeastern Missouri who were headed to a funeral in Tennessee with a hired driver. Lydia Miller, 55, of Canton, Mo., died the day of the crash, and Alvin Mast, 88, of Kahoka, Mo., died two days later.
Charles "Keith" Cason, 55, of Caseyville, was in the car that was rear-ended by the truck, starting the pileup, the Highway Patrol report says. He died immediately. He was a copier salesman headed to a business in Collinsville, said his son, Ryan Cason.
Cason's family has filed a civil suit in Illinois.
"This inattention and recklessness caused a tragedy for us," Ryan Cason said.