A collision between a car and a semi that killed two young women from Andover appears to have occurred after an 18-year-old driver overcorrected and tried to avoid another car, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper said Wednesday.
The collision occurred just before 3:15 p.m. Tuesday in Emporia, west of the Merchant Street exit on I-35. A southbound Kia driven by 18-year-old Jessica Lotz of Andover veered across the median and struck a Freightliner semi driven by 48-year-old Jimmy Dale Cunningham of Centralia, Mo., the Highway Patrol said.
Holland Moody, 19, of Andover died at the scene. Her sister, Kyle Moody, 18, of Andover, was taken to Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka, where she died shortly after 9 p.m.
Lotz was taken to Newman Medical Center in Emporia, where she was treated and released.
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Based on an interview with Lotz, the Highway Patrol said, it appears that she overcorrected when the left tires hit a rumble strip on the inside shoulder, causing her to jerk the steering wheel and go back into the lane. She then encountered another car to her right and swerved left to avoid it, “and that’s what sent her off into the median and then … into the northbound lane,” said Technical Trooper Jeff Norling, the first emergency responder on the scene.
The investigation is ongoing, but there is no indication of texting or driving under the influence being factors in the accident, Norling said.
The speed limit at the accident scene is 70 mph, and it appears the car went across the median at a highway speed and struck the semi, also going a highway speed, at the step area below the semi driver’s door. The truck driver indicated he saw the oncoming car only peripherally, Norling said.
“It happened so fast … no way for him to avoid it,” Norling said.
Norling, who was on duty in his patrol car at the time of the accident, said it “literally happened right in front of me. I was pulling up to the scene as the vehicles were coming to a stop. The dust was still in the air.”
Even with his training, he said, it was “hard to wrap your head around” the rapidly unfolding accident. “You’re not expecting something like that to happen,” he said.
A number of motorists immediately called 911, and a neurosurgeon, nursing student and emergency medical technician — all in separate cars — happened to be passing through and stopped to offer help, Norling said. An air ambulance helicopter also arrived within five to 10 minutes after the collision, he said.
The teens apparently were on their way back home from a trip, Norling said.
Linda Cunningham, 44, a passenger in the semi, was injured in the collision and taken to Newman Medical Center for treatment and later released.
Traffic was diverted for several hours after the collision, authorities said.
Kyle Moody’s Facebook page states she studied at Butler Community College and worked as a server, while Holland’s page indicates she was a student at Pittsburg State University and worked at Braum’s.
All three young women graduated from Andover Central, district spokeswoman Keturah Austin said. Lotz and Holland Moody graduated in 2011 and Kyle Moody in 2012.
Andover Central is providing counseling services in its counseling office for students and staff, Austin said. Counselors were available Wednesday and will be available today, from 9 a.m. until noon — or later, if necessary.
“When a young life is lost, it is hard to comprehend,” Austin said in a prepared statement. “The entire Jaguar family mourns the loss of these young ladies. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Holland and Kyle Moody, as well as to Jessica Lotz during this difficult time.”
At Lakeside Club, a private Wichita supper club where Kyle Moody worked part-time as a server, chef Jeremy Wade remembered her as “just very excited about life … loved music and hanging out with her friends.”