Crash survivor campaigns for victim
Man hopes to slow traffic near Airport Road after fatal wreck
A Monett man who was a survivor of a fatal wreck in August is helping spearhead a campaign to make the intersection where the crash occurred safer for motorists.
Ronald Bertalotto, of Monett, was a passenger in the back seat of a vehicle northbound on Highway 37 when another vehicle westbound pulled into its path.
The driver of the westbound vehicle, Julie Nistas, 63, of Seligman, died at Mercy Hospital in Cassville due to injuries she suffered in the crash.
“I’d like to honor her memory and possibly prevent another life being lost at that intersection,” Bertalotto said. “Her son is a veteran and has lost his mother, and I’d like to be a catalyst for empathy and sympathy, to do something good out of something bad.”
Bertalotto said he has reached out to State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, and he plans to reach out to other state and national politicians in hopes of spurring action at the Highway 37 and Farm Road 2160 intersection.
“I’d like to see a caution light, the speed reduced to 45 miles per hour and signage saying it’s a dangerous intersection,” he said. “I’d also like to honor Julie’s memory by having that intersection officially named after her. I’m just a farmer from Monett, and I’d be happy to donate money to help with signage or whatever needs to be paid for so this gets done.”
Michael Clifton, owner of Mike’s Auto Care, which sits on the northwest corner of the intersection, said when Bertalotto suggested something be done, he was in agreement.
“I fully support Ronald,” Clifton said. “That poor lady lost her life there. I am in support because cars come from both ways, and you can see south, but over that hill north, when people come over it at 70 miles per hour, you have to get out quick.”
Clifton said there are numerous near-accidents at the intersection.
“You can tell that just by all the black marks on the roads,” he said. “I myself have almost been hit there. You have to look right, then look left and pull out quick. I think a caution light or something would do us wonders.”
Mike Bock, MoDOT traffic operations engineer, said his office plans to take a look at the intersection.
“There are no studies of it that I am aware of,” he said. “We do have a crossroad warning sign [north of the intersection going] southbound. Normally when we get these requests, we study the intersection for things like signage and speed, then we make a recommendation.”
Being the first time he had heard of any issues there, Bock said he will send an engineer out to assess the area.
“We don’t have any set benchmarks for making a change,” he said. “We’ll look at crash history, what exists there now and determine if changes are needed. That could mean something like enhanced signage, but based on the number of crashes, could mean more. It’s definitely worth looking at.”
When it comes to naming the intersection after Nistas, there is not a current program that fits what Bertalotto hopes to do. Most naming programs focus on first responders or veterans, but the adopt-a-highway program could be an option.
“I have seen families do that,” Bock said. “Of course, when you adopt a highway you have to pick up trash a couple times a year or the signage is removed.”
Bock said naming programs run through the state legislature, and his role is more about installing and maintaining the signage.