Ambulance night

An 11-year-old Kansas City boy was killed in a one-vehicle accident Saturday morning in Perry County that injured several other family members.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Van V. Stephenson, 11, was pronounced dead at the scene near the 134-mile marker on Interstate 55 by Perry County coroner Bill Bohnert after the vehicle he was riding in left the roadway and overturned.


The accident occurred at approximately 7:25 a.m. when a 2019 Dodge Caravan driven by Aubrey C. Sauls, 71, traveled off the left side of the road on the northbound side of the interstate.

“I don’t know what caused them to go off the road,” said Perryville Fire Department assistant chief Bill Jones, “but the vehicle went off and traveled some distance in the median and struck one of the crossovers, which propelled it airborne and when it landed, it began to roll.”

Jones, whose crews responded to the scene just south of Route M, said it appeared all seven occupants of the van — including four children — were ejected from the vehicle, which came to rest on its roof.

“One of the children had been trapped under the vehicle and was pulled out from under the vehicle by bystanders,” Jones said.

That child was not breathing, Jones said, but state trooper Dylan Wyatt, who was first on the scene, began CPR on the child. 

“He got the child breathing again,” Jones said.

Sauls suffered moderate injuries in the wreck, while Van. V. Stephenson, 48; La Lita A. Stephenson, 47; Jordan Tinsley, age unknown, suffered serious injuries. According to the patrol’s report, Vanissia M. Stephenson, 6, and J’Sean T. Tinsley, 6, suffered minor injuries. All are residents of Kansas City.

Perry County ambulance transported five of those injured from the scene, three to Perry County Memorial Hospital and one to St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau. Jordan Tinsley was transported by Air Evac helicopter to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

“They couldn’t go north due to weather,” Jones said, “and we could also only get one helicopter [at the scene].”

According to Perry County Ambulance Service director Mary Chappius, a second Air Evac helicopter transferred one of the patients transported from the scene to St. Francis after arriving at the PCMH helipad.

According to the highway patrol report, Sauls was the only one listed as wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, but it was unknown if Vanissia Stephenson and J’Sean Tinsley were properly restrained.

The vehicle was ruled a total loss and was towed from the scene by Perry County Towing.

Following the accident, both northbound lanes of I-55 were closed for about an hour, and the left lane was closed until 10:37 a.m. as investigators worked the scene.

Jones said his crew assisted EMTs in preparing the injured for transport and setting up the landing zone for the helicopter, while the highway patrol and Perry County Sheriff’s deputies secured the scene.

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