Crash kills Mo. man who was helping grandson with car problems

02/11/2014 5:51 PM

02/12/2014 6:31 AM

His grandson’s 2005 Monte Carlo had Donald G. Rippy perplexed.

Though the water pump had been replaced, the engine still overheated. After working on the vehicle Monday evening, Rippy asked his grandson, Parker R. Elgin, to take it on a quick test drive about 10 p.m. Rippy, 64, followed in his 2005 Chevrolet Malibu.

The Monte Carlo overheated twice more, the second time as they reached Interstate 435 while headed west on Missouri 152 in Parkville. They pulled over and waited in Rippy’s car to keep warm while Elgin’s engine cooled.

“Within three minutes, he (Rippy) looked in the rearview mirror and saw the (other) car coming,” Elgin, 17, recalled Tuesday. “He grabbed the steering wheel and he was about to honk the horn. I looked back, and then it happened.”

An SUV smashed into their car, which was parked on the roadway’s shoulder with its flashers activated. The 2002 GMC Yukon driven by a 29-year-old Kansas City man continued west and hit Elgin’s unoccupied Monte Carlo.

Elgin flagged down several passing motorists, one of whom was a nurse who administered first aid to his grandfather.

The two were taken to North Kansas City Hospital, where Rippy died. Elgin was treated for minor injuries. They were not wearing seat belts, according to a preliminary crash report from the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The accident occurred about 2 miles from Elgin’s home.

The other driver, who was wearing a seat belt, was not injured. He was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired. Investigators are waiting for toxicology results while they continue their investigation, said Sgt. Collin Stosberg with the Missouri Highway Patrol.

That driver was released Tuesday from the Platte County jail. In a separate incident, Clay County authorities charged him last month with driving with a revoked or suspended license.

Rippy, who lived in Kansas City, North, had a passion for cars and fishing, said his wife, Carol.

They planned to purchase a new car this weekend to take on fishing trips after Rippy’s retirement next January.

“He couldn’t wait,” she said.

Rippy owned several vehicles, including a 1991 GMC Sonoma that he treasured. Carol Rippy said that as they watched “Family Feud” earlier Monday evening, one of the game show’s survey questions asked how much men loved their cars, on a scale from 1 to 10. Without hesitation, Donald Rippy shouted, “Mine would be 10!” she said.

Rippy loved fishing. The couple frequented Smithville Lake and spots in Independence. They owned a lake lot in Polo, Mo., she said.

Carol Rippy said she and her family are struggling to cope with his death.

“I don’t know how I am going to make it,” she said, sobbing. “We’ve been together for 47 years. He’s been my rock, my whole adult life.”

Elgin added, “My grandfather was awesome. He died helping me. He died helping me.”

Rippy had worked nearly 30 years for Rock-Tenn, a packing manufacturer that has a plant in Liberty. Rippy often worked 12-hour shifts to earn money to pay off their mortgage and other expenses before his retirement, said Carol Rippy.

Workers there gathered Tuesday to remember him. Some prayed, said plant manager Danny Rule.

“He meant a lot to a lot of people,” Rule said. “He had a very kind heart and was a very caring individual.”

Carol Rippy said she and her husband met while they were students at Northeast Middle School in Kansas City. They married while high school teenagers. Because they were married, Carol Rippy said, they were not allowed to finish attending high school. Both later earned their graduate equivalency diplomas and took several college courses.

In addition to his wife, Rippy is survived by three children, five grandchildren and a great-grandson.

“This has totally devastated me,” Carol Rippy said. “I don’t know what I am going to do.”

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