A Lincolnville man and a Junction City woman both died at the scene of a fiery head-on collision two miles south of Lincolnville on Monday night.
According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Jason T. Johnson, 51, was driving a 1997 Ford pickup southbound on US-77 when the truck crossed the centerline and smashed into a northbound 2000 Ford Expedition driven by Jayme R. Beldzig, 33.
An initial cell phone call at 11:18 p.m. reporting a vehicle fire “somewhere south of Herington” was determined to have used a cell tower near 260th Rd. and US-77.
Sheriff’s deputies discovered the extent of the accident when they arrived minutes later, reporting that the Expedition was engulfed in flames.
Lincolnville fire, Marion rescue, and Tampa and Marion ambulances were dispatched to the scene, along with a Lifeteam helicopter. Shortly after the dispatch, Lifeteam was called off, and a call to Marion rescue said, “There won’t be anything to rescue here.”
Damage to the burned-out Expedition was so severe that it was initially impossible to determine the make of the vehicle. Once emergency responders started to work, it took more than 20 minutes for them to free Beldzig’s body from the wreckage.
Emergency units gradually were dismissed from the scene beginning around 2 a.m., with a Lincolnville tanker being the last emergency response unit to leave shortly after 4 a.m.