BROOKLINE, Mo.- September 30th, 1970, a day many Springfieldians remember because of a loud explosion on I-44.
The explosion was caused by a sniper bullet hitting a truck carrying around 20 tons of dynamite. The blast created a 30 feet deep and 50 feet wide crater in the middle of the interstate.
Jim Walker lived in Springfield at the time but now lives in Grand Prarie, Texas. Walker says he and his wife went to bed the night of September 30th, and he heard his windows rattling and thought someone was at their house. They lived four blocks from Glenstone and St. Louis.
The next day, Walker went to work, he worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, and decided to go out to the explosion, I-44 and State Highway N/T, to see if any of their customers in the area were out of service.
Walker told Ozarks First Reporter Bailey Strohl that on his way, he ran into a deputy and told the deputy his business and was able to proceed to the scene. Walker says he walked to the top of an on-ramp and saw something he did not expect.
“It was literally like a bomb had gone off in the eastbound lane of the highway,” says Walker.
Walker says he couldn’t see the hole’s bottom for a while and walked around to view it from different vantage points. Walker ran into another deputy and walked with him for a while. He asked the deputy what he was doing on the scene; the deputy told Walker he was gathering evidence and human remains. During their walk around the area, Walker and the deputy found:
- A solid axle
- The truck’s engine
- A cowboy boot belonging to the driver with a foot inside
Walker says the deputy found several more remains after finding the foot.
The truck driver was 48-year-old John A. Galt from Oklahoma City; Galt drove for Tri-State Motors of Joplin. The local Teamsters union was on strike against the trucking company. One of those on strike was Bobby Lee Shuler. Shuler had a rifle with him and was planning to fire at two Tri-State trucks.
According to previous reports, The first truck had a flatbed. He fired two shots at the grille to disable it. But it kept going; Galt drove the next truck. Shuler fired two shots into the grille. The third bullet struck the dynamite and the truck vaporized.
Shuler testified in court, saying he did not mean to hit the trailer.
Court records show he had been drinking much of the day, that there were “Explosives” placards on the truck, and that as a Tri-State driver, he should have known that 50 percent of Tri-State’s’ cargo was dynamite.
After the explosion, Schuler and three others then tried to flee, but their car broke down. They gave themselves up when they saw airplanes circling and heard dogs barking.
Shuler was convicted of second-degree murder in 1971. Shuler tried to appeal in 1972, it was denied. According to records of that 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 wanted to disable the truck.”
Another man was with Shuler, 29-year-old Gerald Lee Bowden. Bowden was also a trucker on strike.
According to court records, earlier that night, Bowden also fired the rifle at a Tri-State truck. Bowden was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was paroled in 1975 and discharged from supervision in 1978.
Shuler was sentenced to 99 years but was in prison eight years and paroled in 1979.
A third person, Sharon Lynn Mortiz, was sentenced to three years. She drove the car the three came in.