State’s Labor Day traffic deaths highest since ’80

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — This year’s Labor Day weekend was the deadliest on Oklahoma roadways in more than 20 years, said state troopers, who said the increase came despite a five-state crackdown on drunk drivers and traffic law violators.

“It’s a tragic thing,” said Lt. Brandon Kopepasah. “One death is tragic, but when you have this many it’s worse.”

Nine deaths were reported. Among the last to die was an 18-year-old Hydro man who had just started his freshman year at Southwestern State University.

Friends say Orbie Wilburn, a former football player who made ends meet by cooking at a steakhouse, was driving home from Weatherford for more clothes when his car was slammed from behind by a tractor trailer rig.

Both vehicles caught fire and the truck’s driver, Michael Carey, 41, of Vine Grove, Ky., also died in the crash.

“No one enjoyed life more than Orbie,” said Kim Liebscher, a family friend. “He was a big cut-up and practical joker. He just enjoyed himself, but he was also a tender-hearted guy. He cared a lot for others.”

Orbie had been so excited that weekend. Brandon had just returned five days earlier from the Persian Gulf. He had gotten to go see Orbie race at Meeker on Saturday night along with Aunt Sissy and their cousin T. J., Grandma and Grandpa, and of course mom and dad. It was such a happy time. Orbie was so excited about becoming independent and had attended class at SWOSU a week and a half. He had worked on Sunday. Orbie had began moving into a house in Weatherford with two great friends Tyler and J. D. He had not had time with working and racing over the weekend to get everything moved. However, he had spent the night there for the first time Sunday night but had to come back home to cleanup for work since his bathroom stuff had not been moved yet.

Orbie always left plenty of time so eventhough it was two hours before he had to be at work he was up and on the road.

It was a beautiful sunshiny morning.

Traffic had stopped for a stalled vehicle in the roadway. Orbie stopped his car behind a semi truck. The Harry Owen Trucking leased truck driven by Michael Carey hit Orbie from the rear-end doing an estimated 73 mph. No apperant attempt to slow down or stop was made by the truck driver.

Most people do not realize the damage that an 80,000 pound truck can do to a passenger vehicle.

This year the families of the over 5,000 people who will be killed will learn the hard way.


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