Former resident’s leg is amputated following accident in Springfield

A short time before this photo was taken on Sept. 2 at Sunshine Street and Fort Avenue in Springfield, former Pontiac resident James Atkinson was pinned between the SUV and the traffic signal pole. His mother, Gainesville resident Kathryn Atkinson, praised those who rushed to help him, crediting them with keeping him alive. James’ right leg had to be amputated as a result of the accident, and his left leg is badly broken. He remains hospitalized in Mercy Hospital in Springfield. Photo courtesy KOLR10.

Former Pontiac resident James Atkinson, 55, was severely injured and had a leg amputated Sept. 2 in Springfield after he was struck by an impaired driver as Atkinson was standing in a median, waiting to cross Sunshine Street. 

Atkinson, son of Ozark County Volunteer Library board president Kathryn Atkinson of Gainesville, was pinned against a traffic signal pole and an SUV driven by William J. Shelton, 42, of Springfield.

Springfield broadcast station KOLR-10 reported on its website,, that Shelton was eastbound on Sunshine and attempting a left turn onto Fort Avenue, when he “turned wide and struck a traffic island.”

Kathryn Atkinson told the Times Shelton has been cited for DWI.

She said her son, who had been living and working in Norman, Oklahoma, until recently, was staying with his sister, Lisa Atkinson, in Springfield awaiting arrangements to be made for him to fly to Alaska to interview for a teaching job at a college there. James holds a Ph.D. in education as well as an MBA, Kathryn said. He had apparently been out walking and was heading back to his sister’s house when the accident occurred.

Kathryn said the impact pinned James against the traffic signal pole. “We almost lost him Sunday,” she said. “The trauma surgeon said James is only alive because of the good medics who responded. When they moved the car, he could have bled out very fast if the medics didn’t do tourniquets and act fast to keep him alive. They knew what they were doing,” she said.

Also, “a lot of people went to his aid right away, holding him up and praying for him until help arrived,” Kathryn said. 

After being transported to Mercy Hospital, his right leg had to be amputated. His left leg is severely broken, said Kathryn, who was in Springfield when the accident occurred. She and her two daughters, Lisa Atkinson and Leslie Burns, went out to lunch Sunday, but James had other things he wanted to do. “He happened to have a piece of paper with Lisa’s phone number on it, and he tends to misplace things, so he was wearing his passport around his neck,” she said, explaining how police knew whom to contact. She praised the Springfield Police officers who notified them of the crash.

“There were four different officers over the course of time, and they were so good, so professional. They were really nice, and they were very concerned for James as a person,” she said.

James remains hospitalized in Mercy Hospital, she said, and he’s having a rough time. He’s in pain and having difficulty tolerating the powerful medications doctors say are necessary. Once his immediate medical issues are resolved, she said, he’ll move into a rehabilitation facility. 

It’ll be 18 months to two years before “he’s put back together and has his prosthesis and has his life back,” said Kathryn, adding that the Alaska college has asked him to contact them when he’s able to resume his teaching career.

Right now, he can’t have visitors except for family members, but prayers are appreciated, she said.

“James was doing everything right,” Kathryn said. “He was in a crosswalk. He was waiting for the light. We’re thankful he was no internal injuries and no head trauma. He’s tremendously bruised, but he’ll get through this. God is good,” she said.

Ozark County Times

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PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
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