CENTERVIEW, Mo. — A volunteer firefighter found a man, ejected during a wreck, face down in drainage ditch water and struggling for life.
Volunteer firefighter Chuck Heiss said he drove west when Trevor T. Rialti, 20, Sedalia, went speeding past on U.S. 50.
“I heard this kid before I saw him,” Heiss said Thursday. “He went by me just driving hectic speed, just driving like a maniac, like a bat out of hell. I watched him and he was in and out of traffic, and I could tell, well, this guy was going to get somebody hurt. But as I looked back to the east, I could see off in the distance a trooper coming – he had his lights on.”
The trooper, like Rialti, passed Heiss. A former Johnson County sheriff, Heiss said he felt concerned that if a single trooper pulled over a person driving like that, then there could be a fight. Heiss said he kept a lookout ahead for the patrol car and the Rialti’s 2008 Land Rover.
“I came up on the wreck,” Heiss said, adding, “The car was all mangled up and tangled up in the trees. … It was one of the most spectacular crashes I’d ever seen. He got ejected from the vehicle and he was launched quite a distance.”
The Missouri Highway Patrol reported Rialti drove west on Highway 50, a couple of miles west of Crest Ridge High School, about 5 p.m. Tuesday when the Land Rover exited the left side of the highway. Rialti corrected, returned to the pavement and then crossed both left lanes before sliding off the right side of the highway.
Tire tracks at the scene show the Land Rover entered mud on the side of an embankment that slopes down from U.S. 50. The tire tracks, pointing down, end; the patrol reported the vehicle went airborne.
The Land Rover struck multiple trees, the patrol reported, before landing and rolling over. The vehicle came to rest, right-side up, looking like a crushed beer can among small trees and brush.
Heiss said he pulled over and saw the trooper on the hillside that slants down from U.S. 50 toward a drainage ditch.
“So I jumped out and yelled to the trooper, ‘Hey, I’m right behind you.’ And I said, ‘Are you chasing him?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m trying to find him,” Heiss said. “So I started looking for (Rialti) and found the kid down in the creek bed. He was all crumpled up – just a heap.”
Heiss yelled he had found Rialti.
“Quite frankly, I thought he was dead,” Heiss said. “As I got to the creek bed, I could see he was face down in the water, and I’m not talking about a lot of water, maybe 2 or 3 inches.”
The span of dirty water measures about 4 feet across and about 8 to 12 feet in length.
Mud clotted Rialti’s mouth and nose.
“As I got to him, I could see that he was trying to breathe,” Heiss said. “I reached down and I pulled him out of the damned ditch, because he was going to drown if I didn’t.”
Heiss then cleared Rialti’s breathing passages.
“No doubt that he was in bad shape,” Heiss said. “When he hit the mud, he hit face down, and the mud had come up and just sealed around his face. He was not getting any air at all. I got him up out of the ditch, opened his mouth and did a finger sweep – cleared his mouth, cleared his nose; made sure they were open.”
At the same time, Heiss called the trooper to get a helicopter to the scene, but bad weather made that impossible.
“Everybody was grounded because of the weather up in the Kansas City area,” he said.
Johnson County Ambulance District personnel prepped and transported Rialti to Research Medical Center, Kansas City.
Charges are pending against Rialti, Highway Patrol spokesman Collin Stosberg said.
The arrest report states Rialti faces charges of resisting arrest; driving while intoxicated – drugs; driving at least 90 mph; driving unsafely from left to right; and failing to drive on the right half of the road, resulting in a crash.
By Jack “Miles” Ventimiglia
The Daily Star-Journal