The first snowfall of the year claimed the life of a prominent Sandpoint businessman Tuesday as slush and ice sent his vehicle slamming into a livestock truck.
Allen Cox, 47-year-old owner of the Edgewater Resort, became the winter driving season’s first casualty.
“He did a hell of a lot for the community - whether it was a charitable cause or the chamber of commerce, he was always there to support it in a big way,” said longtime friend Terry Nordeen. “The community will miss him; his family will miss him; his friends will miss him.”
Cox was driving his Suburban south on U.S. Highway 95 about noon. Gerald M. Laird, 47, of Black Diamond, Alberta, was driving his livestock truck north on the highway.
Cox crossed the center line and headed into oncoming traffic near Cocolalla, said Idaho State Police Cpl. Wayne Harms.
“It appears that slush and water on the road carried him off into the other lane,” Harms said.
Laird yanked his big rig to the right. “He saw the Suburban coming at him and he tried to get out of the way,” Harms said.
But Cox’s Suburban rammed into the semi’s front fender, bent in the side gas tank and then rammed into the truck’s dual tires, Harms said. The blow shoved the tires back 5 feet and smashed the front end of Cox’s Suburban.
Cox died at the scene.
Although Laird was not injured, “he’s not feeling real good,” Harms said. “He’s depressed and shook up. It definitely was not his fault. He did everything he could to avoid it.”
Cox was raised in Sandpoint. He played football for Sandpoint High School, where he graduated in 1966.
Cox had several children.
“He just really loved his kids,” said Nordeen, owner of Sandpoint Marine Sales and Services. “I don’t think I’ve seen any one better with their children.”
Pat Garvey of Sandpoint had been a friend of Cox’s since they were 5 years old. The two had planned to attend a high school reunion planning meeting tonight Next summer would have been their 30th reunion.
“Al was a nice guy,” he said. “He was real busy and had his fingers in lots of things.”
Cox, who recently was engaged to be married, owned the Edgewater Resort on Lake Pend Oreille, the Quality Inn and the Pastime Cafe in downtown Sandpoint. He also was involved in real estate development, was a part owner of the Whiskey Jack Condominiums and was building a gas station and convenience store at the north end of Sandpoint’s Long Bridge.
“He was a hard worker and a very fair, honest man - a good man,” Nordeen said.
Falling snow and slush left North Idaho’s roads littered with bashed cars Tuesday. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department and Idaho State Police had responded to about 30 accidents as of 4 p.m.
However, other than the crash involving Cox, no serious injuries were reported as of late Tuesday afternoon.
Officials with the National Weather Service said between 2 and 3 inches of snow blanketed the ground Tuesday as temperatures hovered around freezing. The snow was expected to change to rain during the night as a warm front moves into the Inland Northwest today.
The front should bring rain and wind with it, raising temperatures up to a high of about 52 degrees today, said Ron Miller, science and operations officer.
However, a cold front is expected later this week. The weather will cool into the weekend, leaving the area with temperatures possibly down into the mid-20s and another chance of snow.
“Slow down and pay attention,” Harms warned motorists Tuesday. “The roads look good, but sometimes they aren’t good.”
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writer Kevin Keating contributed to this report.