Today's THV Anchor Matt Turner Dies in One-Vehicle Accident

Matt Turner, the new news anchor for Gannett Co.-owned CBS affiliate KTHV-TV, Channel 11, in Little Rock, died Saturday in a one-vehicle accident on Interstate 30 in Benton. He was 32 years old. 

Arkansas State Police said Turner's 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe was heading westbound on I-30 at the 111 mile marker. 

The vehicle left "the right side of the interstate and into the grassy median striking a concrete base for a highway sign. The vehicle came to a stop and caught fire," the report said.

Police said time of the accident was 7:30 p.m. It lists weather condition as "rainy" and road condition as "wet."

Turner was the only person in the vehicle. He is survived by his wife, Julee, and their daughter Preslee, along with his mother Lisa and brother Andy.

A visitation is set for Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at 3rd Street Baptist Church in Turner's hometown of Arkadelphia. KTHV reports that a funeral will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday, also at the church. Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Home in Arkadelphia is handling the arrangements.

Julee Turner issued a statement on Twitter Sunday afternoon: "I appreciate the love & prayers from everyone! I can't comprehend what has happened to the love of my life. Please continue to pray for us!"

Video From Today's THV's 10 p.m. Sunday Newscast

Turner had been an on-air reporter and anchor for Nexstar Broadcasting-owned NBC affiliate KNWA-TV in Fayetteville since 2003. Hired by legendary sports anchor Mike Nail, he quickly moved up in the newsroom, covering sports and eventually being promoted to news anchor in 2006.

Turner was among the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal's 2009 40 Under 40 class. That year, he told the Business Journal that he "follows two rules when delivering the nightly news for KNWA: Don't try to imitate anybody and don't make it too complicated.

"My job is really pretty simple," he said. "Read the news, report the news, and be myself when the time is right."

"I am at a loss for words," KNWA General Manager Lisa Kelsey said in a statement Sunday on the news station's website. "Everyone at KNWA loves Matt, Julee and Preslee. We're just heartbroken right now. His entire family is in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time." 

In July, Turner left KNWA to join KTHV. He began appearing on air for Today's THV in September.

KTHV posted news of Turner's death on its website Sunday morning.

"Matt quickly became a friend to all here at Today's THV. We enjoyed his humor and admired his dedication to family and community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Matt's family and friends," the station's report stated.

The station's statement also described Turner's devotion to his family.

"For the first two years after the passing of his father, Matt drove from Fayetteville to Arkadelphia every weekend to be with his mother Lisa and brother Andy. Those that knew him best say he was a great husband, dad, son, brother and friend. He genuinely cared for others," the statement said.  

Turner's family issued a statement, saying: "Matt always loved and protected his family and his greatest asset was his love for his daughter Preslee."

Colleagues and viewers flooded KTHV's Twitter feed and website with condolence notes.

Longtime Today's THV anchor Craig O'Neill wrote a post for the station's website describing his reaction to Turner's death.

"A newsroom is a jigsaw puzzle of interlocking pieces, that form an overall picture. Matt had just opened his box, and we had just begun the process of putting all that into place, when this happened," O'Neill wrote.

"We will, all of us, at Today's THV, and in the many many many people that were touched by Matt, always wonder what that puzzle, when put together, would've looked like. It would've been magnificent!"

University of Arkansas Athletics Director Jeff Long also issued a statement.

"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Matt Turner's passing. He was one of the great guys in TV news. Matt was a respected television journalist, passionate Razorback fan and most importantly a dedicated husband and father," Long said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Turner family, his colleagues at THV and KNWA and his many friends throughout our state."

(Arkansas Business and Today's THV have a news sharing partnership.)