The tragic deaths of two Pauls Valley sisters as they rode along during a drive are starting to get a few more answers.
Those sisters – Wanda Oliver, 89, and Clowan Perkins, 83 – were killed when a large rock came out of a passing dump truck and crushed portions of one side of the vehicle they were in as passengers.
The tragedy came early Tuesday evening, March 26 as the sisters were riding in a 2017 Dodge Journey driven by their niece, Norma Caldwell, 66.
State troopers investigating the scene have determined the vehicle was southbound on U.S. Highway 77 at a roadway curve coming into Pauls Valley.
Coming from the opposite direction was a truck driven by Billy Melson, 42, of Pauls Valley.
“I don’t know how it fell out,” said Lt. Shelby Humphrey of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, referring to the rock coming from the truck.
“Something prevented it from latching causing the rock to fall out,” he said about the truck’s tailgate.
“I didn’t see it myself. The guys involved in the case are describing it as about a 50-pound rock.”
Troopers do know when that rock came out of the truck’s trailer it bounced on the roadway before coming up and striking the windshield of the sisters’ vehicle.
Both were killed as one was a front seat passenger and the other in the back. Not injured was Caldwell.
As for the truck driven by Melson, Humphrey says right before the tragic highway deaths it had just dumped a load of dirt at the site where a new grade school will be built on the west side of Pauls Valley. Right now that process is in the early stages with lots of dirt work.
“That’s the place where he had already dumped his load of dirt,” Humphrey said about the construction site on the south side of state Highway 19 just east of Indian Meridian Road and not far from Interstate 35.
“I don’t know why there was a rock in that load or why the rock didn’t come out at that time.
“I truly don’t think the driver knew he had a big boulder in his truck. I feel like it was a unique situation.”
The trooper is quick to add it’s the driver who ultimately has the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the truck they’re operating.
“The D.A. has been briefed on the situation,” he said. “We’ll present our findings when the investigation is done.
“Anytime there’s a death involved we have to present our findings to the D.A. and it’s up to them to decide if criminal charges will be filed.”