Officials Identify Driver in Fatal Horse Sale Crash
By Hayley Bruce & Dave Franzman, Reporters
KALONA, Iowa - One person is dead and five are injured after witnesses say the driver of an auction truck sped off unexpectedly and struck several people, a tree, and nearby cars during the monthly horse sale at the Kalona sales barn on Monday.
Authorities with the Washington County Sheriff's office said the incident happened just after 10 a.m. and remains under investigation. Numerous witnesses on scene said they believe James Greiner, 73, of South English, Iowa suffered from a stroke, or other medical condition, that caused him to keep his foot on the gas pedal -- propelling the truck at speeds between 40 and 50 miles per hour for three blocks.
Donald Breed, 70, of Freeport, Illinois was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials with the sheriff's office said Breed was walking in the area at the time of the accident.
Terry Stransky, who works for the sales barn, said he was standing behind the truck when it took off during the auction.
"The pickup accelerated a little bit and all of a sudden, it took off full-boar and there were people lying down in the street here," the 53-year-old of southwest Kalona said. "I think I saw four (people) when I started running down there after the truck."
Another witness, 46-year-old Mike Rohlf of Davenport, said Greiner appeared to be stiff and frozen to the wheel as he passed by. He said one person was struck at such a high speed that his boots were knocked off of his feet.
Marilyn Merrill, of Anamosa, said she was standing right next to the truck, which typically stays dormant during an auction until each individual section is completely sold, took off while the clerk and auctioneer were still on the back. She said the clerk jumped off the truck right away -- injuring his back and neck -- while the auctioneer was forced to stay on as the truck continued to travel west at an increasing speed. Merrill said the truck hit at least six people, crashed into a tree, traveled three blocks and turned left before it came to a stop just before a four-way intersection.
"I went up there and talked to (the auctioneer) and he said he was okay," Merrill said. "He was fine, shaken up pretty bad. He said that was the worst wild ride he'd ever taken in his life because when the truck turned the corner he thought the top end of the truck was going to come off but the driver just kind of went down to the four way intersection and stopped."
When Stransky arrived at the scene, he said it appeared the auctioneer had gotten the driver to stop the vehicle.
Merrill said the male driver also appeared to be okay when she walked up to the intersection where the truck came to a halt.
"He was talking, he was sitting there, but he doesn't remember what happened," Merrill said, adding the truck he was driving sustained extreme damage to the right side.
The auctioneer, Keith Murphy -- who owns K M Auction Service in Washington, Iowa -- was working for the sale barn's horse auction on Monday when the accident occurred, his son Mike Murphy said. The driver of the auction truck was also working for the sales barn, and was not an employee of Murphy's.
Mark Murphy said his dad "took a pretty good lick," as a result of the incident, and that his father was getting checked out at a hospital in Iowa City.
"After (the driver) went down the street and pin-balled off cars (Keith) yelled at him and yelled at him and it was like he finally woke up," Murphy said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Washington County Chief Deputy Jared Schneider couldn't confirm whether the accident had been caused by the driver of the auction truck suffering from some kind of medical condition, though he said that was under investigation. Schneider said he did not believe the incident would be investigated as a homicide.
Though many on scene appeared to be shaken up by the incident, several witnesses said they though it could have been worse.
"This is a big thing, it happens once a month, and there are probably about three or four hundred people that come ever time so it could have been a lot worse," said Sandra Crickett, who has been coming to the horse sale for the last 40 years. "It could have been a lot worse."
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