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Bystanders assist victims after back-to-back Burnet crashes

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

BURNET — When 27-year-old William Ridgely drove up to the scene of a crash on Texas 29 on Oct. 18, an instinct kicked in, motivating him to help the occupants —  two of whom were children —  until emergency crews arrived.

He and his wife, Kaila, had just been rerouted off U.S. 281 because of a fatal head-on collision south of Burnet less than an hour earlier.

In the Texas 29 wreck, a Dodge Ram pickup driven by 25-year-old Harlee Couey pulled into traffic from a private drive at about 2 p.m. when she collided with a semi-trailer truck, according to the Burnet Police Department.

“I was coming over the hill and saw that both vehicles had come to a rest. I was kind of confused because I saw the truck stopped and the car stopped until I saw (the condition of) both the driver and the passenger,” Ridgely said. “My instant reaction was to see if there was anything I could do to help.”

He got out of his vehicle, noticed the crushed driver’s-side door of the car, and used the passenger-side door to gain access to the two children, ages 10 months and 2 years old, as Couey and a male passenger appeared unconscious and unable to respond.

Ridgely then removed the children from their safety seats and handed them to other bystanders.

His wife and others at the scene comforted the children and talked to the passenger, Kyle Keenan, who regained consciousness, until first responders arrived.

Investigators arrived soon after and began dissecting what happened.

“(Couey) pulled out from a private drive and was struck by an 18-wheeler in the driver’s door,” Burnet Police Chief Paul Nelson said. “From witnesses, the 18-wheeler was unable to stop.”

Couey was taken to an Austin-area hospital by helicopter with head and body trauma but is expected to survive.

Crews transported the children and Keenan by ambulance to an Austin-area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash closed Texas 29 for about two hours, prompted, in part, by the cleanup of diesel spilled from the semi-truck.

FATAL COLLISION

At the same time, area first responders split resources as a fatal U.S. 281 crash had blocked traffic on the southern edge of Burnet.

According to a report, the crash on 281 occurred about 1:30 p.m. south of Delaware Springs Municipal Golf Course.

A white Ford F-150 driven by Charles Linzey, 55, of Copperas Cove with an unidentified male passenger was traveling southbound when it collided with two other vehicles.

“The driver of the Ford truck veered across 281, striking one vehicle on the side (and) then striking the SUV head on,” Nelson said.

Nancy Parrish, 72, of Burnet, who was a passenger in the sport-utility vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene by Burnet County Precinct 2 Justice of Peace Lisa Whitehead.

“She was a well-known administrative assistant for a (justice of the peace) office here in Burnet years ago,” Nelson said. “There are people hurting very bad today. Our condolences go out to Ms. Parrish and her family. We pray for them to get through this hard time.”

The passenger in the pickup was airlifted to an Austin-area hospital with serious injuries.

Investigators ordered a mandatory alcohol and drug test on the driver of the pickup.

Crews rerouted traffic onto Park Road 4 halfway between Burnet and Marble Falls as well as advised motorists to detour onto country roads 340A and 340 in Burnet and Mormon Mill Road in Marble Falls.

Within an hour of the U.S. 281 wreck, the Texas 29 collision unfolded, causing motorists such as Ridgely and his wife to become snarled in traffic.

Ridgely of Burnet was among several hundred motorists caught in the delay, and as he waited, he soon discovered a connection to the mother of the children he assisted that hit close to home.

He recognized Couey as a fellow graduate of Marble Falls High School.

When he found out she would survive the crash, he expressed relief.

“I wouldn’t want those two kids to grow up without their mother, so I’m glad she’s still going to be able to be there with them, along with their father,” he said. “I would hope that somebody would do the same thing for me and my wife if we had children. The least you can do is talk to somebody and make sure they don’t go into shock and make sure they’re OK.”

connie@thepicayune.com