Sprint executive killed when boulder drops on his car.

Thomas Murphy, 45, vice president of corporate brand marketing for Sprint, was killed on Friday when a boulder smashed through the windshield of his car, while he and his family were driving in Colorado.
The Colorado State Patrol said a boulder the size of a briefcase fell off a mountain and crashed through the windshield of the family's 2007 Chevy Tahoe. Murphy was knocked unconscious, and his 11-year-old son, Ethan, suffered moderate injuries. Murphy's wife, Jennifer, placed the Tahoe in neutral in hopes it would come to a stop while it was on a steep downhill trajectory, but authorities said it took more than a mile for her to bring the vehicle under control from the front passenger seat.
Sprint executive killed by a boulder (Image: HEATHER ROUSSEAU. Story: Kansas City Star, thanks Chief Fulfiller of Needs)


  1. Murphy’s wife, Jennifer, placed the Tahoe in neutral in hopes it would come to a stop while it was on a steep downhill trajectory

    Putting it in first gear would have been a bit more effective.

  2. Holy crap, I always take the “falling rock” signs as being overly cautious. I had no idea this sort of thing actually happens.

    Depending on the speed you are going, some vehicles will not let you downshift to first (to prevent blowing the engine/transmission). You need to downshift to 3rd, then 2nd, then 1st.

    But I still applaud Jennifer for having the sense of mind to do anything in what must have been an unbelievably scary moment.

  4. @BOSKODEPOMPO, he was a prominent business figure, and it is customary for news organizations to note such details when reporting news.

  5. I drove/rode in mountainous areas for the first 20 years of my life and never once heard of a rock actually hitting a car, and never once saw any debris on the road.

    It seems to me the chances of this happening are roughly equal to the odds of being struck by lightning.

  6. But is the news that a dude got killed by a rock, or that a Sprint executive got killed by a rock?

  7. It’s a combination of both. Prominent guy + unusual, dare I say cartoonish death = story. If he died of a heart attack while jogging, or if it was just some dude? No story. (Or just a local story.)

  8. XZZY

    I agree that the odds are up there with lightning strikes, but that just means that it still happens *sometimes*. The only difference is that lightning can strike just about anywhere, and falling rocks are only a danger in specific areas.

    And just like lightning, if a boulder is headed for your car, there’s not a lot (if anything at all) you can do to avoid it, no matter how vigilant you’re being.

  9. I read the article I still don’t see why it’s significant he worked for Sprint.

    I do find it a little strange that the police chief made the statement that it’s fairly common to have boulders hit cars in Colorado. WTF?! Maybe we need to have someone look into that you think?

    They have people who help prevent avalanches, maybe we should work on this.

    (I live in the east, near the Appalachian mountains, and have seen a road or two closed because of rock slides. But this wasn’t like 1 boulder, this was a whole side giving way. If you were there, well you were going to be dead.)

  10. @#15

    Poor customer service should be fixed by having executives killed unexpectedly in front of their spouse & kids? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

    THOMAS MURPHY WAS A HUMAN BEING WHO DIED TRAGICALLY IN FRONT OF HIS FAMILY. You had to deal with poor service. I think you need a little perspective in life.

  11. How about some compassion for his family? This wasn’t God disapproving of brand marketing, or an excuse for a happy dance: this was a man DYING in front of his family.

    This wasn’t funny or cartoonish to them: this is an event they’ll struggle to deal with for the rest of their lives.

  12. DCulberson @3: Another reason for the falling rocks signs is more because the falling rocks often litter the road and hitting small boulders with your car can ruin your day, if not your car, and possibly your life. (Unlike XZZY, I have seen a lot of debris on roads due to falling rocks. I lived in Utah, and we were always going up the canyons which were fifteen minutes from my parents place.) The signs serve as notice not to zip along because you never know what could be around the next curve.

  13. As someone who has been a passenger in a car hit by a falling rock (about the size of a football – it glanced off our roof) in a falling rock zone, this story activates some kind of phobia in me. I can’t drive through one of those areas without thinking about the potential for the sign to become reality.

  14. For the prevention side, drive through a mountain range once. They have nets covering and catching in certain areas. I have heard of traffic being stopped do to rock slides. Go enjoy nature, it might kill you.

  15. Sprint’s national headquarters used to be in Kansas city, and the story link is to local Kansas City paper’s web site, so it seems natural to me. If it was a Chicago, Atlanta, or other city’s paper, the Sprint connection would likely have been lost on the reader(s).

    2005 article about its Nat. HQ move out of Kansas City:

  16. Falling rocks and fatalities are relatively common in Colorado in the springtime. There are two or three every year. The surprise for this one is the late summer date. A previous commenter is correct though that the Falling Rocks sign is mostly a caution about what might be lying on the highway around the curve. A rock actually falling on you is a ‘lighting strike’ kind of event.

  17. Yeah, Sprint is by no means my favorite corporation, but come on… Fellow died, and his family had to deal with trying not to die while they watched him die. Pretty awful.

  18. Anonymous @21: That was the thought that led me to refrain from about 4 or 5 snarky comments that came to mind.

    His wife is one heroic woman. The situation was not only scary, but (I imagine) rather gory as well.

  19. I see falling rock signs all the time driving in canyons and the mountains.

    I see rocks on the road sides all the time in such places.

    I’ve swerved to avoid rocks in the road dozens of times.

    I’ve heard of cars hitting fallen rocks in the road, and of course knew it was possible one could hit a car but that doesn’t happen often.

    Drive safely in the mountains, don’t zip by while staring out the window and nature’s beauty… I’ve seen people almost hit elk because the sky was so pretty… it would be really easy to hit a rock if you aren’t a bit compulsive about driving safely.

  20. This doesn’t just happen in the mountains. A friend was driving in Illinois and had a chunk of loose concrete fall from an overpass onto the hood of his rental car, causing damage but fortunately no injuries. And there have been cases of people maliciously dropping rocks from overpasses, trying to hit the cars below, causing fatalities.

  21. The comments for this are kind of hilarious. Alternately “Poor guy!” and “$PRINT IS TEH EVIL.”

    I think the real hero of this story is the wife. Man, it takes some serious composure to guide your out-of-control vehicle from the passenger seat through the mountains after your husband basically got murdered by geology. Woman deserves a prize.

    Sprint blows, but this is a real dead person. I don’t celebrate 9/11 just ‘cuz the WTO is horribly unethical. We all gotta go sometime, and some folks gotta go by getting rocked, hard. It’s newsworthy for Kansas City ‘cuz apparently Sprint is a Big Deal out there.

    Must’ve been pretty horrible to be that guy’s wife or son for a while. Hope they do okay.

  22. @1: Yes, I wondered at that as well. I would thing that even in an automatic, neutral would just let the flywheel run free without the gearing to hold it back.

    @5: Most US-made cars, particularly SUVs, come with automatic transmission. It’s highly unlikely that he was driving a manual, so putting it into 3rd or 4th would not be an option. Auto-boxes do generally have low-gear settings, though, so she could have dropped it into one of those.

    Then again, I rarely drive automatics. Maybe neutral works differently than in manuals?

  23. Hey, folks, we’re locking down the comment thread for a bit and removing tasteless comments. (Tue, 18 August 2009, 3:35 PM)

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