Yvonne Douglas embraced Halloween and was on her way with her adult son Saturday to help set up the Enchanted Forest, a holiday-themed trail in Independence.
As she drove through an intersection, a semitractor-trailer cab hit her Kia Soul on the passenger side — where her son Ian sat —and flipped the car over. The 53-year-old died at a hospital. Ian Douglas is in the ICU.
The crash occurred at a Kansas City intersection where police say large semitractor-trailers are routinely parking illegally — and obscuring a stop sign and oncoming traffic.
“It is still very unreal. It just doesn’t seem real. There’s a hole in my heart,” said Nancy Eppert, a longtime friend and a theatrical director for City Theatre of Independence.
Douglas was driving east on N.E. 40th Street through a cluster of warehouses north of the river, just north of Missouri 210 and east of Interstate 435.
As she approached Kimball Drive, several semitractor-trailers were parked on 40th Street in a no-parking zone, blocking the stop sign at the intersection, police said. Douglas did not yield at the obscured stop sign and a Freightliner semi-cab going north on Kimball struck her, police said.
“This illegal parking problem does drastically reduce the line-of-sight for eastbound motorists of not only the traffic on N. Kimball Drive but also the stop signs posted at the intersection,” Kansas City Police Officer Matt Phelps said in an email to The Star.
After the crash, Kansas City police cited two trailers for illegally parking, one on the north side of 40th Street and one on the south.
Both trailers that were ticketed Saturday were towed, Phelps said.
Phelps pointed to a Google Maps image showing large trailers parked on both sides of the street. All the trailers on the north side of the street in the image are illegally parked, he said. And a trailer along the south side of the street furthest to the east also is illegally parked. It is unknown when the photo was taken.
A company to the southwest of the intersection “is the offender that continues to park the trailers along the street,” police said.
Authorities said CEVA Logistics, which is located nearby on Kimball Drive, has trucks coming and going with freight. When there is not enough room on their lot, they reportedly direct drivers to drop the trailers on N.E. 40th Street. The trailers are then moved in and out of the company’s lot when freight is loaded and unloaded.
Repeated phone calls to the company’s office in headquarters in Houston were not returned.
Danny Lewis, a resident of the nearby village of Birmingham, said he has been complaining to authorities about the illegally parked trailers for three years and has been frustrated that the problem continues.
“Thirty hours after a woman lost her life here, the trailers were still obstructing the stop sign,” Lewis said. “It’s just a terrible, dangerous intersection. We’ve been pulling our hair out with this.”
Lewis, who lives about a half-mile from the intersection, said he spoke with a CEVA supervisor before the wreck but nothing was done about the trailers.
“This company, if they’re too big for their spot, they need to move to a bigger spot,” he said. “I don’t know if they think, we’re bigger than you and we’ll do what we want. These big companies, they don’t live down here — they don’t give a crap.”
A review of municipal court records shows that Kansas City police have issued nine parking tickets near the intersection since December 2015, including the two issued after the crash Saturday.
Phelps returned to the intersection on Monday and all remaining trailers on N.E. 40th Street were legally parked.
“Our department will continue to monitor this intersection for illegal parking,” Phelps said.
On Tuesday, those who worked along side with Douglas at the law firm and in her local theater circle mourned her passing.
Douglas worked as a receptionist and clerk for Boyd Kenter Thomas & Parrish, a law firm located on the historic square in Independence.
“She was just a wonderful person that touched the hearts and lives of many people,” said John B. Boyd, a partner with the law firm. “She’s very fun loving individual that anyone who has ever met her likes her.”
Boyd said Douglas treated her co-workers as though they were part of her family. She made sure that clients who walked into the law firm’s office were treated with courtesy and care.
“There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t have a cheery smile and something nice to say,” Boyd said. “And that will be solely missed.”
Douglas was such a theater aficionado that she would easily sing any line from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
When she wasn’t at work, Douglas delighted in working behind the scenes in a number of local theater projects. She worked as a property mistress for the Enchanted Forest and other productions, Eppert said.
Among other duties, Douglas was tasked with making sure the seven scenes along the Enchanted Forest trail were properly lit and conveyed the thrilling, yet family-friendly theme.
Eppert said Douglas once served as the property manager for a production of Moonlight and Magnolias, a play about the film production of Gone with the Wind.
“There is a line in the play that became her mantra: ‘The shape of the ice cubes really does matter,’ ” Eppert said.
Douglas took the time to pay careful attention to the small details of any scene.
She celebrated her Irish and English heritage and the love of her family.
Douglas is survived by her husband, a daughter and her son. Her husband, Scott Douglas, said he was too distraught to talk.
Eppert said she thought about Douglas as she went about chores on Tuesday that included washing the Enchanted Forest T-shirts for the production’s security guards and workers. Eppert easily picked out one that had belonged to Douglas.
“I just held it close to me just to have one more hug,” Eppert said.