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Oklahoma storm: Three killed when vehicle plunges into river near Oklahoma-Missouri border

A vehicle plunged into the Spring River near Miami, OK, killing three people. Five others who were riding in the vehicle and six emergency responders also were taken to hospitals for treatment.
BY BRYAN DEAN and SHEILA STOGSDILL Modified: February 3, 2011 at 10:40 pm •  Published: February 3, 2011

— Emergency crews staged a rescue in subzero weather Thursday after a sport utility vehicle with eight people from Carthage, Mo., inside plunged 61 feet off a Will Rogers Turnpike bridge into the icy Spring River near the Missouri border.

Driver Leonor Alcano, 31, and Irma Garcia, 37, died at the scene, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

A third person, Douglas Monzon, 22, died at 12:30 p.m. at a hospital in Joplin, Mo., a hospital spokesman said.

Fransica Cosagua, 21; Eli Feliberto, 19; Julio Garcia, 21; Samuel Hernandez, 22; and Mario Romero, 30, also were taken to hospitals.

All were recovering from hypothermia in Joplin, Mo.

“Doctors have given them a good prognosis,'' Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. George Brown said.

The maroon-colored SUV was headed west when Alcano lost control on the ice-covered roadway, hit a concrete wall, then slid into and over the bridge wall, landing on its wheels in 4 feet of water about 6:25 a.m., according to the patrol's report.

The bridge is about six miles southwest of the Missouri border.

The plows that cleared the four-lane highway's outside lanes pushed the snow up against the outside guardrails, and that snow acted as a ramp when the SUV hit it, Ottawa County Sheriff Terry Durborow said.

Firefighters, paramedics and dive teams worked in air temperatures of minus 11 degrees during the rescue.

Six people were rescued from the top of the vehicle, including Monzon, who died later at a hospital, Brown said. Four helicopters were used to airlift the men to medical facilities.

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Road clearing work continues

Crews continued to plow, salt and sand roads Thursday throughout central and eastern Oklahoma. The eastern third of the state had the worst road conditions, but most interstates, turnpikes and highways were reopened, according to the state Transportation Department.

State officials continued to discourage travel Thursday.

Meantime, Oklahoma City-area road conditions continued to improve.

Crews have been treating roadways nonstop since early Tuesday, said Mike DeGiacomo, city streets superintendent.

DeGiacomo expected to have at least one lane in both directions clear on all the emergency snow routes by Thursday night.

“That doesn't necessarily mean we've got clear pavement from curb to curb,” he added, cautioning motorists to remain careful as melted snow and ice likely would refreeze overnight. If time allows, crews will try to go back and plow curb to curb.

“We don't have enough resources to try to do all the streets in Oklahoma City,” DeGiacomo said. “That's why we concentrate on the emergency snow routes.”

By Thursday afternoon, the city had spent about $350,000, including overtime, on clearing roads of snow and ice dumped by the blizzard.

DeGiacomo said the city would be ready for the next forecast snowfall since crews already are up and running.

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