GREAT BEND, Kansas – Authorities are investigating a major accident on Highway 281 south of Great Bend. Two SUVs hit head on Thursday morning.
“All three adult passengers in both vehicles were in serious condition when they left Great Bend,” said Brian Bellendir, Barton County Sheriff.
Both children in the hit car, a 3-year-old and an 8 ½-month-old, only suffered minor injuries from their restraints. Everyone was sent to Great Bend Regional Hospital. They were flown by Eagle Med Helicopters to Wichita.
“All three of the adult front seat passengers in both vehicles had to be extracted with the jaws of life, it took probably 30 minutes to get them all out, all three were pinned in their vehicles after the collision,” said Bellendir.
The sheriff says a 2005 Ford Explorer, operated by 26-year-old Lafe Kern of St. John was southbound. The investigation indicates Kern crossed left of center nearly striking a northbound vehicle. The first vehicle was able to avoid the collision.
The northbound vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, was operated by 29-year-old Heather Cash of Pratt. There were three other passengers in the Cash vehicle. Candace Lampe, age 52, of Pratt and Cash’s two children ages 3 years and 8 ½ months. Both children were properly restrained in child restraint devices and had only minor injuries.
While the accident couldn’t have been avoided by the northbound driver, other accidents can be. The Kansas Highway Patrol says it is all about defensive driving.
“If you see somebody coming across the center line, obviously, slow down and move to the right, try to avoid that vehicle,” said Dave Jacobs, KHP Master Trooper.
Sometimes driving off the road is a better option.
“If the vehicle is coming across the center line at you, the ditch may be your only option, it’s going to be a better option than getting hit head on by a vehicle moving at highway speed,” said Jacobs.