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Officers rescue woman, children in Big Ditch

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at 12:09 p.m.

Investigators are possibly pursuing child endangerment or trespassing charges in an incident late Monday and early Tuesday in which a woman became stranded with three young children in the Big Ditch, a Sedgwick County sheriff’s official said Wednesday.

Dozens of officers were involved in the rescue of the woman and children, sheriff’s Lt. David Mattingly said.

He gave this account: At 11:45 p.m. Monday, Wichita police asked sheriff’s deputies to help them find several people reported to be stuck in the Wichita/Valley Center Floodway, commonly known as the Big Ditch. A Wichita man had been driving a truck in the drainage ditch and got stuck. About 7 p.m. he called a woman to pick him up at the canoe-launch area at 3100 E. 71st St. South.

The woman reportedly brought a 4-year-old, 2-year-old and 10-month-old with her and got stuck as well. The man managed to get out on his own.

About 4:45 a.m., the police helicopter found the woman and children, and a sheriff’s ATV brought them out. The woman and children had stayed in a van with the headlights on, which helped the helicopter find them. The woman didn’t have a cellphone, Mattingly said.

She is not the mother of the children, he said.

It’s dangerous to drive in the flood-control ditch because vehicles can have accidents, he said. Also, the ditch wasn’t designed for off-road driving, which can damage the structure, he said.

People who trespass there can receive a $500 citation, Mattingly said.

Still, he noted, people have been illegally driving in the ditch for decades.

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