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Felony sought in ATV crash

Staff writer

Marion police last week recommended charges of reckless driving, driving too fast for conditions, and reckless aggravated battery after a July 4 accident that severely injured a Marion man.

County attorney Joel Ensey said police submitted a probable cause affidavit Aug. 9.

He said Friday he had not fully reviewed the case and wouldn’t decide on charges until after talking to the injured man, Todd Winter, who is now home from the hospital.

Driving too fast is a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to $75.

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Reckless aggravated battery is a Level 5 felony. Sentencing guidelines set a range of 36 months’ probation to 136 months in prison, depending on the defendant’s criminal history.

Winter was rushed to Wesley Medical Center, Wichita, after a 2020 Polaris RZR driven by Russell S. Hake, 52, Marion, overturned in a ditch at 9:11 p.m. July 4 on Kellison Rd. east of N. Coble St.

Neither Winter nor Hake was wearing a seat harness at the time. Winter was pinned under the RZR.

Officer Zach Hudlin responded to the July 4 accident. He thought Winter, not Hake, had been driving. Police did not learn who was driving the vehicle, owned by Hake’s son, until they checked with Hake the next day for insurance information.

Assistant police chief Steve Janzen wrote the accident report.

Police chief Jeffrey Clinton earlier said Janzen wrote the report because Hudlin had written few accident reports, and police wanted the report done correctly because of the seriousness of Winter’s injuries.

According to Darin Beck, executive director of Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, all certified officers are taught how to investigate an accident and how to determine who was driving.

“I would expect that would happen immediately upon arrival at the scene,” he said. “And that would be one of the first things you would want to know.”

Beck said he was surprised to hear the investigation had been taken over by Janzen and the report worked on the day after the accident.

“Certainly the senior officer would be overseeing what the junior officer was doing, but the junior officer would investigate the facts,” he said. “The longer you delay an investigation, the more likely you will lose evidence. It would be better to begin the investigation immediately, but that’s not always possible.”

The vehicle had been removed before officers examined the scene and took measurements.

According to Hake, he had taken Winter from a home on Coble St. West on Coble and turned north on Kellison when he lost control and the vehicle ended up in the street’s north ditch, overturned onto the passenger side.

Because of the delay in identifying the driver, Hake’s blood-alcohol content was not tested. However, in an interview with the newspaper, he said he had not been drinking on July 4, the day of the accident. He also denied reports that he went home rather than remain at the scene to report the accident to police.

Last modified Aug. 18, 2021

 

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