Much still unknown about July 4 crash
Much more investigation is needed before the full truth is known about a July 4 accident that severely injured a Marion man, police chief Clinton Jeffrey said last week.
Todd Winter was rushed to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita after a 2020 Polaris RZR driven by Russell S. Hake, 52, overturned in a ditch at 9:11 p.m. July 4 on Kellison Rd. east of N. Coble St.
A police report states that neither occupant was wearing a seat harness and that Winter was pinned beneath the vehicle when the crash took place.
City ordinance requires seat belts to be worn when an off-road vehicle is driven in Marion.
The Polaris had been moved before police arrived, Jeffrey said. Landon Pederson, a firefighter and witness who lives about a half a block away, already had lifted it off Winter.
“They lifted it up and got it off of him,” Jeffrey said. “At that point, it’s been moved.”
Removing the vehicle before ambulance personnel arrive could cause problems in some cases, but emergency services director Travis Parmley said he thought it didn’t cause further injury to Winter.
Officer Zach Hudlin arrived six minutes after the wreck was reported. A crowd of 20 people was there and Jeffrey described the scene as “chaos.”
It is unclear how many people had been there before the accident and how many had gathered afterward.
“Everybody was focused on helping Todd,” he said.
Jeffrey said Hudlin thought that Winter had been driving the Polaris and that Hudlin also was focused on helping Winter.
At some point, Hake, who lives at 520 N. Freeborn St., just east of where the accident occurred, left the scene without talking to police and returned to his home, Jeffrey said.
Hudlin told dispatchers he was done at the scene 40 minutes after he arrived, moments after the ambulance left for Wichita with Winter.
Officers typically focus on helping rescue victims until they have been transported by ambulances but then frequently remain on the scene to interview witnesses and document evidence.
It is unclear why Hudlin did not. Recordings of radio transmissions do not indicate other calls for Marion police were pending.
“It was the next day before we found out Russell was driving,” Jeffrey said.
By that time, it was too late to test him for alcohol use, Jeffrey said.
The accident report, written not by Hudlin but by assistant police chief Steve Janzen, lists the sequence of events as the Polaris ran off the road and then went left of center. A diagram portion of the report, drawn the following day after the Polaris had been removed and based on still-visible skid marks, indicates the Polaris already was left of center before it veered into a ditch and turned on its side.
Jeffrey said the actual path was likely that the Polaris went left of center, that Hake tried to correct, and that the Polaris then went left of the center line a second time before veering into the ditch.
Janzen wrote the accident report instead of Hudlin because Hudlin has written few accident reports and the department wanted the report to be done correctly because of the seriousness of Winter’s injuries, Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey said several more people would be interviewed before a final report is filed with the county attorney.
Hake’s Polaris, actually owned by his son, Riley, had been inspected by the police before the accident and was registered for in-town use. It was not required to display a slow-moving vehicle sign because of the speed it is capable of reaching.
State law requires off-road vehicles to be listed with the county appraiser’s office because the vehicles are subject to personal property tax beginning the following year. Hake’s Polaris was not registered for tax purposes, the county appraiser’s office said.
Annual tax on a vehicle of that make and model typically is around $100. Registration with the city costs an additional $45 a year.