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.