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Family, Friends Of Accident Victim Believe Broken Street Lights Contributed To Crash

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Monday, July 8, 2013

People who live near the scene of Friday's fatal crash on East 21st Street say they believe the tragedy might not have happened if the street lights had been functioning.

"I believe if the lights had been on they would have seen the horse and this man would not have lost his life," said Julia Singleton, who lives down the street.

Lloyd "Sonny" Fergueson, 49, was killed Friday night near E. 21st St. and Piatt after a car struck the horse he and a 6-year-old child was riding. That car did not stop. Two people who saw the accident rushed over to help when another car hit the group. The two witnesses and the child are expected to recover. The horse was euthanized by a veterinarian on scene.

Police acknowledged Monday that the area was very dark because the street lights were not on. They say while the horse is allowed on city streets, they say it is considered a "vehicle" must have reflective gear on it. They say Fergueson's horse had no such gear on the dark road Monday night.

People say that stretch of road that connects I-135 to Wichita State University is just too important for the lights to be off.

"This is a main street. Why not have the lights? So many people going up and down the street. It's sad!" said Pearlie May Muldrow.

After numerous calls about the lights, Jason Tarr dug deeper in a KAKE News I-Team Investigation.

He found the street lights are owned and maintained by Westar Energy, not the city of Wichita. Westar spokesman, Shane Batchelder, said it is unclear how long the lights had been out. He said Westar first heard about the problem Friday.

"That's when we got the report that there were some of them that were out," Batchelder said.

Batchelder says once Westar was aware of the problem, technicians got right to work on fixing the wiring. They finished the repairs Monday morning.

"I found out they are back on," Batchelder said.

Westar contracts out to Kansas City, Kan. company LHC Spatial Data Collection to check each of the Wichita's more than 30,000 street lights every month. LHC's owner, Chris Cole, says a team of three people equipped with computers that have GPS technology, physically drive by the lights to check that they are working.

Each light is checked once a month so Westar says it also relies heavily on customers to report outages.

"Don't assume we know about," Batchelder said. "Go ahead and report it."

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To report a street light that is out, you can call 1-800-LIGHT-KS. Or you can use Westar's online form by using the following link: http://www.westarenergy.com/wcm.nsf/content/street%20light%20problem


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