1 dead, 5 hurt in truck accident at Iowa auction

Witnesses: Truck sped into crowd at Kalona Sales Barn without warning

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March 31, 2014 | 10:42 pm

Authorities are investigating what happened when a pickup truck used to conduct a busy Eastern Iowa livestock auction sped into a crowd without warning Monday, killing one person and injuring at least five others.

The driver of the Ford F-250, which was ferrying the auctioneer from one horse trailer to the next at the Kalona Sales Barn, was pulling forward around 10 a.m. when he had a sudden health problem that caused him to hit the accelerator and lose control, Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said.

The auctioneer and several people involved in running the auction were in the back of the truck, and at least some of them were thrown out when it sped forward, Schlabaugh said. The truck hit six or seven people in the parking lot outside the barn before it struck a tree and continued through downtown Kalona for a short time before stopping, he said.

Washington County authorities said in a statement that one person was pronounced dead at the scene and five others were taken to hospitals. Authorities didn’t release the name of the driver or of the person killed, pending the notification of the victim’s family.

The Iowa State Patrol and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office were investigating.

Sgt. Scott Bright, a spokesman for the patrol, said the person who died was thrown from the back of the truck. He said the driver and two passengers “had serious injuries” and were taken to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. A spokeswoman there declined to comment.

Marilyn Merrill of Anamosa, who witnessed the accident, said she saw the driver at the intersection where the truck came to a halt.

“He was talking, he was sitting there, but he doesn’t remember what happened,” she said.

Mike Murphy said his father, auctioneer Keith Murphy, was working for the sale barn’s horse auction when the accident happened. Murphy said his dad “took a pretty good lick” and was being checked out at the hospital.

Schlabaugh said the Kalona Sales Barn is one of the oldest businesses in the city and was one of the first sale barns west of the Mississippi River. Owner Devin Mullet declined to comment, but its website says the barn was founded in 1947 by his family and that its horse, sheep and cattle sales “have grown to be the largest in the Midwest.”

Schlabaugh said up to 500 people attend the auctions, and he saw at least 300 people when he arrived on the scene shortly after Monday’s accident.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured and we hope they can recover,” he said. “Judging it right now, it’s an unforeseen accident that should be looked at accordingly.”

Kalona, which has about 2,600 residents, is 20 miles southwest of Iowa City.

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship spokesman Dustin Vande Hoef called the Kalona Sales Barn a “fairly popular and busy auction market.” He said his agency, which conducts routine inspections of how auction markets handle animals, has never had an issue with Kalona before. He said no animals were injured in the accident.

“It’s a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” he said.

The Gazette’s Hayley Bruce and Dave Franzman contributed to this report.

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