Updated at 1:10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020
By Travis Mounts
Eastbound traffic on US Highway 54 was diverted for several hours following a fatality wreck Monday morning.
Arnold Thompson III of Cadiz, Ohio, was pronounced dead at the scene west of Garden Plain, near 327th Street West. According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Thompson was driving his 2006 Toyota Tundra pickup too fast for the conditions. He slid off the road, crossed the median and rolled over. He was not wearing a seatbelt, according to the KHP accident report. Heavy fog was in the area for several areas, and road conditions were slick throughout south-central Kansas.
Traffic going east was diverted onto Old Highway 54 at 343rd Street West for several hours. The highway remained open to westbound traffic.
Numerous emergency vehicles were seen along eastbound 54, as authorities exercised extra caution in getting vehicles to slow down before exiting the highway.
A second crash happened west of that accident scene, between 343rd Street and 383rd Street West just to the east of the Ninnescah River. According to the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department, Carlos Torres Olivas was eastbound on US 54 when he lost control due to icy conditions. Authorities were notified of the accident at 8:21 a.m., not long after the first accident. Olivas’ vehicle exited the roadway to the south, hit the ditch and then continued on, rolling over a barbed wire fence belonging to the Kansas Department of Transportation. Olivas refused EMS transport.
The highway stayed open around that accident.
The Sheriff’s Department reported eight other accidents in the county, including one in the southwest part of the county.
Seth Wilhem lost control of his vehicle in the 16000 block of West Pawnee and crossed the center line, striking a culvert before rolling over. The vehicle was driven from the scene. That accident was reported just after 7:30 a.m.
Most of Monday’s accidents happened between about 6 and 8:30 a.m. and involved slick roadways.
Fog played a factor in another fatality accident just a few miles away last September. Mendi Cotter, 30, of Wichita, died in one of three separate-but-related wrecks on both sides of the highway between the exits at Cheney and at 343rd Street West. Cotter died when an eastbound vehicle cross the median and struck her car, which was going west. Two other accidents happened in the eastbound lanes. Five other people suffered injuries ranging from minor to severe.