LITTLE ROCK — A 68-year-old man driving a mule-drawn covered wagon from Michigan to Oklahoma to raise awareness about U.S. military veterans was recovering Thursday in a Fayetteville veterans hospital from injuries he sustained in a highway crash in Ozark that killed his animals.
Charles Peters suffered apparent rib injuries when a vehicle struck the mule team pulling his wagon and a trailer about 7 p.m. Wednesday on U.S. 64 in Ozark, city police Lt. Jonathan Little said Thursday.
Peters was taken to Mercy Hospital-Turner Memorial in Ozark and later transferred to the veterans hospital in Fayetteville, Little said.
One of the mules died at the scene and the other died overnight, the officer said.
Little said Peters was traveling westbound on the highway when a pickup driven by 18-year-old Brandy Summers struck the covered wagon from behind. Summers was not injured.
"The other vehicle was westbound … and the wagon was rear-ended, which kind of spun it sideways and the truck kept going forward and ended up coming to rest on top of the two mules," Little said. "She said that she looked down at something in her vehicle and when she looked back up the sun was glaring in her eyes, which that’s right that time of day on that area, and she didn’t even see the wagon."
No charges had been filed Thursday. Little said the accident was still under investigation.
Peters, from Owosso, Mich., was riding from his home to Oklahoma to raise awareness about U.S. military veterans and visit his father’s grave outside Oklahoma City.
According to a May 30 article in the Greene County Daily World in Linton, Ind., Peters, a retired machinist for General Motors, departed his home May 1 and had hoped to arrive in Okemah, Okla., where his father is buried, in early August.
Peters told the newspaper that the trip was about 1,100 miles and that he was a U.S. Navy veteran who served in Vietnam. He said he got the idea for the trip about three years ago after a man thanked him for his military service in an antique store.
"I told him, ‘You are the first person in 45 years to tell me that.’ I felt so good about it, I told my wife I am going to do something for veterans, so this (trip) is what I came up with," he told the Indiana newspaper.
Peters built the wagon and trailer and purchased two mules for the trip.
His accident was the second in recent weeks involving participants in a cross-country trip.
Earlier this month, an 18-year-old woman died from injuries she sustained when a car struck her and six other bicyclists on Arkansas 17 near McCrory in Woodruff County.
The riders, with Overland Summer Camp based in Massachusetts, were traveling coast to coast.
The driver of the vehicle, 21-year-old Teagan Ross Martin of Newport, was not injured.
State police are still investigating the collision, a spokesman said Thursday.