The community of Harrisburg and surrounding area was rocked by a tragic auto accident Thursday afternoon, Sept. 28. En route to a Cross Country event in Moberly, the Lady Bulldogs Cross Country team and coach were involved in a head-on collision with a pickup on Route F, north of Harrisburg.
Driving the bus was Coach Brian T. Simpson, who died at the scene. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports four students received minor to serious injuries and were transported to University Hospital for evaluation and treatment. The driver of the pickup, Brandon N. Brill of Clark, was transported by the Staff for Life to University Hospital with serious injuries.
According to the MSHP, Brill’s 2006 Dodge pickup crossed the center line and struck the 2012 Thomas Built Bus head on. Both vehicles overturned on the south side of the roadway and the bus caught fire. Boone County Medical Examiner, Dori Burke, was called to the scene and pronounced Simpson’s death. Brill, 26, was cut from his truck, and four of the five students escaped the bus by emergency exits, one was assisted by firefighters. The students included; Zoe J. Carr, 16; Mariah Murphy, 13; Carolanne Russell, 13; Katie Starbuck, 13, and Kate Weil.
Brill was driving without a valid license and has five prior convictions for driving without a valid license. Second degree murder charges have been filed against Brill.
Harrisburg Schools canceled classes on Friday, Sept. 29. Counselors were made available for students and staff beginning on Friday and through the following week.
All school activities for Thursday and Friday were canceled. The Harrisburg vs. Cairo softball game was postponed as well as Friday’s football game at Fayette, and Parent/Teacher Conferences for Monday. All will be rescheduled.
Thursday evening a memorial was placed at home plate on the Harrisburg High School baseball field, and a Prayer walk was held at the high school track. Mike Ursery, The Fayette Advertiser’s Sports Editor, who attended to pay respect, said when he left, more people were still arriving. The baseball field lights were left on Thursday and Friday nights for those coming to pay respects.
Friday Fayette High school and community showed support for Harrisburg’s loss by wearing red. The Falcon Band played a tribute to Harrisburg community, “A Hymn for Band,” posting on Facebook. The Fayette Athletic Boosters held a benefit tailgate Friday evening to raise money for the Brian Simpson Memorial Fund. Donations received from Breadeaux Pizza, C&R Supermarket, Dairy Queen, Sara Lee Bakery, and Sam’s Club helped raise more than $2600.
Simpson, 37, a member of Harrisburg faculty for 15 years taught History and coached Baseball as well as Cross Country and the Quiz Bowl teams. He leaves behind his wife, Jennie and daughter, Bradey.
Fayette Schools continue to show their respect and support for Harrisburg this week with a special Spirit Week. Monday was Hat Day; Tuesday, Class Color Day; today is Pajama Day; Thursday is Favorite Sport Team Day; and Friday is Wear RED Day. Students can donate $1 each day to participate with money going to the memorial fund.