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Victims Identified In Turnpike Tanker Truck Explosion

By: KAKE News Email
By: KAKE News Email

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UPDATE: Monday, November 5, 2012

The Kansas Turnpike Authority has identified two people who were killed Saturday in a tanker truck explosion south of Wichita.

The accident happened at about 4 p.m. Saturday in the northbound lanes of the turnpike near Belle Plaine.

Troopers say the tanker struck the guardrail on a bridge, skidded into a ditch through a fence, caught fire and exploded moments later. Both occupants of the truck were killed.

The driver has been identified as 57-year-old Kelly Stark of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the passenger was 54-year-old Jennie Smith of Wagner, Oklahoma.



UPDATE: Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two people are dead after a tanker truck explosion on the Kansas Turnpike south of Wichita.

The Kansas Highway Patrol says a little after 4 p.m., the northbound tanker struck a guard rail, left the highway and went through a fence and tree line before coming to a stop in a corn field.

Authorities say the man driving the truck and a woman co-driver died in the accident. Both were from Oklahoma. Their names have not been released.



UPDATE: Saturday, November 3, 2012

Master Trooper Joel Powers was one of the first ones to see the smoke.

"I was at the Belle Plaine Service Area and I could see the smoke coming up," Powers said.

He drove less than a mile north on the Kansas Turnpike to the scene where he found a tanker truck on fire in a field below the highway.

"There was nothing I could do," Powers said. "I was going to see if I could help someone but it was too late. It was totally engulfed."

Their focus turned to protecting passing motorists.

"Another trooper stopped traffic back there (toward the Belle Plain Service Area) because we were afraid it (the truck) was going to explode," Powers said.

Just ten minutes after Powers arrived on scene, shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday, that truck did explode.

Troopers say they believe there was at least one person in the truck and they say that person was killed.

"We know it has to be at least one because it takes one person to drive," Powers said.

Powers says a woman driving right behind the truck saw the accident happen. He says she saw the truck hit the guard rail, then leave the roadway, and sail across a ditch. That's when things went from bad to worse.

"The truck caught fire and exploded," Powers said.

The front of the truck, or what was left of it, came to rest a few feet into an old corn field.

"(The driver) poked a hole right through the tree line," Powers said.

Despite the fiery crash, it didn't take long for troopers to reopen the turnpike and have both lanes of traffic flowing freely.

But they say what will take time is figuring out what the truck was carrying, where it was heading, and if more than one person was inside.

"The truck is so burned and torn up, it's just hard to tell," Powers said.



Saturday, November 3, 2012

At least one person is dead after a tanker truck explosion on the Kansas Turnpike south of Wichita.

The Kansas Highway Patrol says a little after 4 p.m., the northbound tanker struck a guard rail, left the highway and went through a fence and tree line before coming to a stop in a corn field.

The truck was on fire after the accident, the Highway Patrol said. About 10 minutes after the first emergency crews arrived on the scene, the truck exploded.

The accident closed the northbound lanes of the Turnpike for a short time, but at least one lane is now back open.

KAKE News has a crew at the scene. Check kake.com for updates as they become available.


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