By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 6, 2007
A contract driver for the U.S. Postal Service, a single mother of three, was killed at the Dulles processing and distribution center when she was pulled under a tractor-trailer and dragged, authorities said yesterday.
Katherine N. Sowers, 49, who lived in Leesburg, had driven her box truck into the center's docking area Tuesday when the tractor-trailer was pulling out, a Loudoun County Sheriff's Office spokesman said.
"Somehow she got caught beneath the truck," spokesman Kraig Troxell said. He could not say how far Sowers was dragged. No charges have been filed, he said.
Authorities were called to the center, at 44715 Prentice Dr., just after 3 p.m. Sowers was pronounced dead at the scene, Troxell said.
Relatives said yesterday that Sowers did everything for her children, including the truck-driving job. She had worked in the restaurant business before taking the job at Johnson Trucking Co. in September 2005, they said.
"She basically took this job on because the hours were conducive for her to be around for the kids," said Sowers's brother David Junkin, 44, of Leesburg. "Her children were her life."
He said the family told the children -- ages 13, 17 and 19 -- yesterday about their mother's death and said that what started as many tears turned into surprising resolve.
"They are keeping strong, and they are helping us be strong," Junkin said. "I think it will be okay in time. It's still hard to believe."
Sowers, who was called "Katy" and loved listening to Elvis Presley in her truck, was a baker of holiday pies and cakes in her family. Because she lived with the children in a condo next to her mother, the children will stay with their grandmother for now, Junkin said.
Many of the drivers at the Harrisonburg-based trucking company were having a hard time dealing with Sowers's death, company owner Tim Johnson said. He described Sowers as "always on time, always willing to help out."
"She was just a hard worker. She did her job well," he said. "Everyone got along with her at the post offices."
Sowers had just picked up the mail from the Gainesville post office and was dropping it off at the Dulles center when she was killed, Johnson said.
Deborah Yackley, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service's Northern Virginia region, said that one employee at the center saw part of what happened and that everyone is cooperating with authorities. The driver of the tractor-trailer was also a contracted worker, she said.
"Even though both were contract drivers, they came in regularly, and so they were extended members of the family," Yackley said.
The processing and distribution center is where the mail is sorted for Loudoun and surrounding areas.