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2nd double fatality on US-77 in 9 days

Staff reporter

A 43-year-old Wamego woman and a child were killed Wednesday after their car rear-ended a semi-trailer stopped for a flagger in a Department of Transportion construction zone of US-56/77 at 250th Rd.

It was the second double fatality involving a semi in nine days on a six-mile stretch of US-77.

Jessica R. Henson and a juvenile whom state troopers refused to identify died while trapped in their car after it slammed at 11:11 a.m. into the rear of a 2017 Freightliner driven by Trevor L. Stevens, 21, Emporia, according to Kansas Highway Patrol.

The juvenile victim later was identified by others as Henson’s 10-year-old daughter, Baylie. A family friend has established a fundraising effort to pay for funeral expenses.

Henson’s car was listed on an accident report as a 2011 Hyundai Elantra but radio transmissions earlier identified the vehicle, with the same license plate, as a red Honda Civic. The highway patrol report said the car was eastbound on US-56, which also would make it northbound on US-77.

Just nine days earlier and six miles to the south, another accident involving a semi claimed the lives of two Centre High School teens — 18-year-old Michelle E. Brasch and 17-year-old Dwayne S. Moenning.

Dwayne, who troopers said ran a stop sign and slammed his pickup into the side of a semi at K-256 and US-77, survived initial impact in critial condition at a Wichita hospital but eventually succumbed to his injuries and was scheduled to become an organ donor.

According to monitored transmissions, the latest accident was reported to a sheriff’s deputy at 11:20 a.m., nine minutes after the accident report said it occurred, by a passer-by, who then was told by the deputy, on dispatchers' instructions, to call 911.

The deputy arrived three minutes later and said it appeared to be a double fatality even before rescuers had been paged.

Marion ambulance, normally 6.7 miles away, was busy transferring a patient from St. Luke Hospital to Wichita, so Hillsboro and Tampa ambulances, 18.9 and 18.4 miles away, were paged at 11:24 a.m. along with Lincolnville first responders and Lincolnville and Marion firefighters and rescue squad members.

Dispatchers appeared frustrated and interrupted units attempting to respond to the page, telling them to wait until a second page had been completed.

A Tampa ambulance attendant who works at Centre schools responded along with three Lincolnville first responders. The deputy, already on the scene, checked the license plate of the vehicle and reported that one victim wasn’t breathing and the other was in critical condition.

Dispatchers told him to stand by while they responded to other units answering their page.

A second deputy reported at 11:28 a.m. that the location actually was two miles south of what originally had been announced in dispatchers’ pages.

Helicopter ambulance services were contacted but told dispatchers they couldn’t reach the scene for at least an hour.

A Hillsboro ambulance attendant asked dispatchers to contact Dickinson County to see whether it might have an ambulance available in Herington, 16.4 miles away. However, dispatchers responded: “We are making multiple phone calls. It will have to wait a second. We’ll call as soon as we can.”

Marion firefighters arrived. So did Sheriff Jeff Soyez. Soon afterward, deputies told dispatchers by cell phone or encrypted communication that both victims of the accident had died. The semi driver, according to state troopers, was uninjured.

Working with three EMTs from Lincolnville first response, the Tampa EMT arriving from Centre attempted to cancel the call to Hillsboro ambulance, but Hillsboro ambulance attendants decided to continue anyway. The Tampa EMT eventually was able to persuade both Hillsboro and Tampa ambulances that they weren’t needed. When informed that a Dickinson County ambulance also had been summoned, she canceled that call, too.

Some firefighters remained at the accident until 4:19 p.m.

A state trooper arrived at 11:53 a.m. and assumed responsibility for investigating the accident.

Last modified Dec. 17, 2023

 

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