Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mother, Son Recall Accident Hot Asphalt Leaves Burns, but `We're Doing Real Good'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mother, Son Recall Accident Hot Asphalt Leaves Burns, but `We're Doing Real Good'

Article excerpt

Last summer Cindy Mehrle, 35, and her son Jeremy, 15, suffered the kind of accident that gives most people - just hearing about it - a wrenching feeling in their stomachs.

Cindy Mehrle had picked Jeremy up on the last day of school. On their way home, a truck overturned in front of their car and dumped 14 tons of blistering hot asphalt onto them.

Mother and son were dug out by bystanders and emergency workers and then spent four weeks in the burn unit of St. John's Mercy Medical Center. Multiple skin grafts later, both resumed their lives. Cindy Mehrle is a homemaker and cares for Jeremy, daughter Amanda, 14; and husband, Rich Mehrle, a quadriplegic since a construction accident several years ago.

Jeremy's summer vacation was wiped out, but he returned to Francis Howell High School in the fall on time with his 10th-grade classmates. Most were glad to see him. Some were shocked. Jeremy said in a recent interview, "Some people thought I was dead."

Cindy Mehrle said, "We're doing real good. About a week before Christmas we felt back to normal. We still have purple spots from skin grafts on our legs. Jeremy has to go back for plastic surgery on his hand."

"I think what it is, since Rich had his accident, we're just so used to that and we know how bad it could have been . . . Jeremy and I feel after a year, we'll pretty well be back to normal," she added. "It's not like we're going to have back pain for the rest of our lives."

Authorities say this is what happened:

About noon on June 10, Eric Janke, a driver for St. Charles County, picked up a load of asphalt from a plant in St. Charles and drove south on Missouri Highway 94. About the same time, Cindy Mehrle picked up Jeremy, who had stayed late to finish a final exam and missed his bus. The Mehrles drove north on the highway. As the truck barreled down a hill toward the stoplight at Central School Road, Janke realized the truck's brakes were failing and so he swerved right onto Central School. Cindy Mehrle turned her 1988 Mustang GT left onto the road behind the truck. The truck swerved, began to overturn and tipped its load into the car.

Cindy Mehrle said, "I was sitting at a stoplight getting ready to turn left. The arrow turned green. I went and after I got around the corner, I saw this truck on two wheels right in front of me."

Traffic was on her right, and a concrete median on her left.

"There was nowhere to go," she said. "I said, `Oh my gosh.' Jeremy had seen it. Next I felt a bump, and the car moved sideways and asphalt started pouring in."

Jeremy said, "When it happened, I could see the truck tipping. It fell over, and I thought, `Well, I'm in an accident now,' and the asphalt started pouring and I started yelling."

Officials estimated the temperature of the asphalt at 275 degrees.

Cindy Mehrle said, "About all that went through my mind is, `We'll see what happens. …

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