‘A Nana to everyone’: Family mourns Missouri woman killed in massive I-70 pileup

Debris scattered across I-70 near Concordia after multi-vehicle pile-up

At least 20 vehicles were involved in a pile-up on Interstate 70 near Concordia after a winter storm made road conditions dangerous on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2019.
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At least 20 vehicles were involved in a pile-up on Interstate 70 near Concordia after a winter storm made road conditions dangerous on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2019.

Family members were stunned and in mourning Saturday after they learned it was their matriarch who died Friday in a massive vehicle pileup on an icy Interstate 70 near Oak Grove.

“We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved and incredible mother, grandmother, Girl Scout leader, and loving woman, Linda Henderson, age 74, from Platte City, Mo., passed away immediately following the accident,” the family said in a statement.

The family was also coping with the fact that Linda’s husband, James Henderson, 75, was in critical condition at Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, suffering from multiple injuries sustained in the wreck.

The crash occurred at about 11:30 a.m. Friday on I-70 westbound at the 29 mile marker, just east of Oak Grove in Jackson County.

Original reports said least 15 vehicles were in that specific pileup and a total of 47 vehicles were run off the road or damaged, according Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman.

A preliminary report released by the highway patrol Saturday evening said 11 vehicles were damaged and three people were injured. In addition, Linda Henderson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Wintry weather that hit quickly, covering the roadway with ice and snow, definitely was a factor in the crash, Stosberg said Saturday.

According to the highway patrol’s online crash report, the crash occurred as a 2012 Peterbilt tractor-trailer, driven by 44-year-old Marlon C. Davis of Washington Park, Ill., lost control on the snow-covered interstate. It traveled off the left side of the road and was still partially blocking the road when it came to a stop.

Soon after, a 2016 Ford Escape, driven by James Henderson, struck the truck’s rear trailer, the report said.

It caused a chain reaction as one vehicle after another hit one another.

The wreckage took about seven hours to clear, and I-70 in that area was closed until about 8 p.m. Friday.

The crash remained under investigation Saturday.

On Facebook posts late Friday and Saturday, family and friends shared loving tributes to Linda Henderson.

“The Henderson Family is in disbelief that our Mom, Nana, was the one who passed away in the I-70 pile up,” Laura Spooner wrote Friday night on Facebook. “We love her so much and she was a huge presence in everyone’s life she ever touched.”

Spooner noted that her father doted on his wife and the couple had been married 56 years.

“Please understand my emotions are high and I’m angry, numb, sad, brokenhearted, disbelief but I love you all,” another relative, Lara Ashley, wrote on her Facebook page.

She pleaded with people not to think of Henderson as a fatality but as “our Nana, a Nana to everyone.”

And Ashley recalled that Linda Henderson did not want a funeral but a celebration of her life, with no sadness.

A GoFundMe page has been established to help the family with medical bills, travel expenses and other costs.

In its public statement, the family thanked everyone who has reached out with caring and compassion.

“We are incredibly grateful for the enormous amount of love, support and prayers we have received from all over the country,” they said. “As we mourn the loss of such an amazing woman, we also know we have a long road ahead.”

They said James Henderson is receiving great care and they have faith he will make a strong recovery. The family asked for privacy as it grieves and focuses on caring for him.

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Lynn Horsley reports on Johnson County for the Kansas City Star, focusing on government, politics, business development and battles over growth and change in the county. She previously covered City Hall in Kansas City for 19 years and has a passion for helping readers understand how government affects their lives.