Two Southern football players killed in auto accident

Two Missouri Southern football players, Diondre Johnson and Michael McCrimmons, were killed on I-44 near Sarcoxie at approximately 2:30 a.m. today.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crash Report website, two more Southern athletes, Jeremy Johnson, football, and Patrick Holt, golf, were in the 2000 Nissan Pathfinder with Diondre Johnson and McCrimmons. Jeremy Johnson was the driver of the vehicle. The Missouri Southern athletic department report said that Jeremy Johnson was airlifted to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., and Holt was airlifted to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. 

According to Lions former Head Coach Bart Tatum, Jeremy Johnson was in a coma as of Friday night, but Tatum said Johnson’s family had “received some hope that he might survive his injuries.”

“It’s a terribly sad day for Missouri Southern athletics department,” Athletics Director Jared Bruggeman said. “We are deeply saddened over the news of the tragic accident, and are equally heartbroken over the news of the deaths of two of these young men; Diondre Johnson and Michael McCrimmons. Any time a tragedy such as this happens, we immediately think of the many people who are grieving today, to the football teammates, the fellow athletes, family and friends, we offer our heartfelt condolences and prayers. We will continue to support them in this time of grief. In addition, our prayers go out to the families of Jeremy Johnson and Patrick Holt as we hope them for a swift recovery.”

The Highway Patrol website’s report of the incident reads, “Vehicle #1 went off the roadway into the median, struck the median, overturned, ejecting passenger. Vehicle #1 came to rest in passing lane of eastbound I-44. Subject was pronounced deceased by coroner Rob Chappel at scene. As required by state law, the surviving driver was tested for alcohol.”

The teenagers were traveling back to Joplin from popular Springfield nightclub ‘Icon.’ 

“Missouri Southern is a family, and it’s times like this where the family definitely has to come together and support each other,” Vice President of Student Affairs Darren Fullerton said at a Friday night candlelight vigil in memory of the players. “Because we’re going to have a few rough days coming up. Looking to your right and to your left, many of us are having tough days right now.”

The University is also planning a memorial service for next week, pending the families’ arrangements.

“My heart is moved by such a tremendous outpouring of love and respect for these two young men who have passed away,” former Head Coach Bart Tatum said at Friday night’s vigil. 

Southern has set up multiple counseling opportunities for anyone who may need it in the wake of the fatal incident.

Counseling will be available through Advising, Counseling and Testing, the Mayes Student Life Center until about 9 p.m. Friday, and students also may call or text message the number (417) 499-3894 for University counseling.