Alex Catterson, 21, faces charges of class C felony of first-degree involuntary manslaughter after crashing into The Palms Bar early Sunday.
The police report states Catterson’s blood alcohol level was 0.207. The crash resulted in severe injuries to Northwest sophomore Morgan McCoy. McCoy was transported to St. Francis Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Senior Elizabeth Brown was at The Palms during the accident. She said it was crowded, a typical night for The Palms.
“I remember I was standing in the middle of the bar,” Brown said. “I heard glass breaking, it sounded like one of the bartenders dropped a bottle but louder. I looked over to where the sound was coming from, which was the front of the bar, and I just saw headlights. I helped a girl that was next to me stand up on a chair to see what happened, and she said that a car or something had crashed into the front.”
Brown said the bartenders immediately began evacuating everyone out of the building.
“It kind of smelled like a bonfire, there was a lot of smoke,” Brown said. “I saw that the front of the truck was really smashed in. I saw that the podium at the front was still standing so I didn’t expect that anyone had gotten hurt because I didn’t think it had gotten far enough into the bar.”
The Palms owner Erik Schreiber was out of town at the time of the accident but returned to Maryville after receiving a phone call.
“This has been very hard for me,” Schreiber said. “My wife and I, we don't have any kids. We came here to do this for Maryville… It just kills me that we do everything we can to make that place safe and positive and then a stupid decision by somebody affects this town and everyone around it in layers… It affects a lot of people, it’s a really bad situation all the way around.”
This case is being investigated by Maryville Public Safety. Lieutenant of Maryville Public Safety Ron Christian said they are looking for all witnesses to make a statement.
“Currently the investigation has been ongoing,” Christian said. “The officers have been seeking and interviewing folks that were in the area at the time of the incident and have been taking written statements from everyone that has come in and visited with us.”
Schreiber set up a GoFundMe Page to help cover the funeral and burial costs.
“We set up that Gofundme because I can’t just fix the building and open,” Schreiber said. “I can’t do nothing. I can only imagine what it’s like getting that phone call. Hopefully, this just helps the family a little bit.”
The GoFundMe Page will be open until Friday then Schreiber will turn it over to the family. So far, $13,584 has been raised for the family.
“As far as the business goes, we just had contractors there (Tuesday),” Schreiber said. “The fiscal damage to the building is not as bad as we thought it was going to be. We are going to reopen, it’s just a matter of navigating how to do that. I don’t want to rush back and I can’t have you guys (Maryville community) going to that place where (McCoy) was killed right in the doorway and ask people to come in two weeks later. That bar has been there for 80 years, and I can't have it end like this.”
At the time of publication, a reopening date had not been released.