Today marks the 50 year anniversary of one of the most explosive moments in trucking history.
The incident occurred on September 30, 1970, on I-44 near Springfield, Missouri, according to reporting from the New York Times.
Two weeks prior to the incident, Teamsters Local 823 had gone on strike against Joplin, Missouri-based trucking company Tri‐State Motors, Inc.
Tri-State Motors continued to operate in spite of the strike.
On September 30, 48 year old truck driver John Galt was operating a truck leased to Tri-State Motors, hauling a load of more than 20 tons of dynamite along I-44 en route to a mining area in southeastern Missouri.
Shots were fired on Galt’s truck, triggering a massive explosion that shattered windows 12 miles away in Springfield, Missouri. A crater that was 50 feet wide and 30 feet deep was left on I-44.
Fragments of the truck were found for a quarter of a mile from the explosion site.
Galt died instantly in the explosion. Galt was a father of four making his first run for Tri-State Motors.
No one else was killed or seriously hurt.
A witness later reported seeing shots fired from a car and gave police the license plate number. Police were able to track down the car and found a .30‐30‐caliber rifle as well as a spent shell.
Two Tri-State company drivers and Teamster members, Bobby Lee Shuler and Gerald Lee Bowden, both 29 at the time, were charged with second-degree murder. Bowden’s wife, Sharon Lynn Bowden, was also charged with second-degree murder, though it isn’t clear whether she was ever convicted.
Shuler later said that he had also fired at a flat bed Tri-State Motors truck traveling in front of Galt’s semi but that he wasn’t able to disable it. He argued that he didn’t intend to hurt anyone. According to his 1972 appeal: “Shuler testified that he did not mean to do any bodily harm to anyone … and he never considered the possibility that it might be carrying dynamite; and that he was wanting to disable the truck.”
Prosecutors argued that Shuler had been drinking much of the day with Bowden on September 30 and that, as a company driver, he should have known that half of the materials transported by the Tri-State Motors were explosive.
Shuler was sentenced to 99 years in prison and paroled after 8 years in prison.
Gerald Bowden was also convicted on second-degree murder charges and sentenced to 10 years. He was paroled in 1975.
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