Undersheriff Scott Matheny said Smith’s vehicle left the road on Highway 51 and went into the coal pit.
Marty Brady-Martin, a Hladky Construction employee who was working in the mine when the crash happened, said Smith’s SUV traveled off the road about a half a mile to three-quarters of a mile before it went off the high wall. Radio reports also stated that a witness thought the driver appeared to deliberately drive off the precipice.
But Sheryl Lewis, a friend of Smith’s in Joplin, said no one who knows him would believe that. Smith just got married a few months ago, and he has a son and two stepsons. He also recently started his own wrecker service.
“Brad is a good person,” she said. “He’d do anything for anybody.”
Smith was in Gillette to pick up a vehicle and drive it down to Texas for the owner — something he’s done frequently, said Lewis, adding that they had plans to play spades when he returned home this weekend.
“He was a good driver,” she said. “He did this all this all the time.”
Brady-Martin said the incident surprised those who were working there. A guy working with him saw a big puff of dust while dumping a load of dirt, he recalled. The man didn’t think anything of it until the dust cleared and he saw a vehicle.
Brady-Martin jumped in his truck and rushed to where Smith’s had landed and found the SUV sitting on all four wheels. Smith raised his head up, so Brady-Martin patted him on his head and said, “lay back down. We got help coming.”
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Joplin man in critical condition after driving into coal mine
Bradley Smith, 28, Joplin, remains in critical condition after driving his vehicle off the road into an open mine pit in Gillette, Wyo.: