Metro-East News

O’Fallon man dies in Tennessee crash, wife in critical condition

Robert and Sharon Gage
Robert and Sharon Gage

An O’Fallon man was killed and his wife remain in critical condition after being involved in a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer Sunday in Tennessee.

The victims were identified as Robert Gage, 69, and Sharon Gage,70, of O’Fallon. Sharon Gage remains in critical condition in the surgical intensive care unit at a Erlanger Health System facility in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. John Harmon said his department is currently investigating the crash, and criminal charges are pending against the 57-year-old truck driver, Norman Bruan, of Avoca, Penn.

The fatal crash occurred near Kimball, Tenn., where the posted speed limit was 70 mph.

Robert was driving the couple’s 2003 Chevrolet SUV in the westbound lanes of Interstate 24. They had gone to visit eldest of two daughters, Lisa Gage Callahan, her husband, Barry Callahan, and their several adopted and foster children in Rome, Ga.

“He died at the scene of the accident, but she was airlifted to a Chattanooga hospital,” Harmon said.

Bruan was driving in the eastbound lanes of I-24 just before his tractor-trailer crossed the center median and struck the Gages’ vehicle head on, according to Trooper Scott Lewis, who responded to the scene. The accident occurred at about 1:37 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11.

All three individuals were reported to have been wearing their seat belts.

Bruan suffered minor injuries and was treated at a nearby hospital. He is not in custody.

“The case is still pending our investigation,” Harmon said.

On the home front

The Gages were active members at St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in O’Fallon, said Ed Koszykowski, parish ministries coordinator and a close family friend.

Msgr. William Hitpas, St. Nicholas’ pastor, said in a statement: “Bob and Sharon were very involved in the parish and its many ministries, and Bob’s presence will be deeply missed by all of us.”

Koszykowski said he and his wife, Myra, drove the Gages’ youngest daughter, Lynette Gage, of O’Fallon, to Chattanooga to be with her family.

“They remain in shock. All of us are in shock. It seems surreal, honestly,” Koszykowski said.

Funeral arrangements will remain pending until the family is ready, he said.

“Sharon will be hospitalized for a while; it’s undetermined at this time. She’s in critical but stable condition and is undergoing periodic surgeries,” Koszykowski said.

He said Lynette attends both St. Nicholas and St. Clare Catholic churches and has been a member of St. Clare for many years.

“I would see her often at St. Nicholas Masses with her parents, who were very devoted in their ministry,” Koszykowski said.

“A wonderful person with an incredible love for all his grandchildren and family — it’s difficult to epitomize him — he just had an incredible level of hospitality, compassion and care for people,” Koszykowski said.

Koszykowski said he and Bob Gage had known each other for many years and are both retired from the Air Force.

“He retired a full USAF colonel. He was a farm boy from South Dakota who loved the land,” Koszykowski said.

Bob could often be found on the grounds of Fontebella Maternity Home (shelter) in O’Fallon.

“He was always out there helping with keeping up the landscape because he was a farm boy at heart,” Koszykowski said. “We were very different; I’m from New York, but we were close.”

“The family asks for prayers, and all thoughts and prayers are appreciated,” Koszykowski said.

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch