Two men have been killed in separate vehicle crashes in Butler County overnight, authorities said.
The first crash occurred just after 11:30 p.m. on U.S. 77 at SW 120th more than a mile south of Augusta, Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said. Charles White, 38, of Douglass was driving north on U.S. 77 when his Ford Explorer left the road and rolled 2 1/2 times, coming to rest upside down.
White was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the Explorer, Herzet said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Two young girls, ages 2 and 3, were in the Explorer with their father, Herzet said. They survived the crash and crawled out of the wreckage.
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A passing motorist saw the Explorer and pulled over to check the scene, Herzet said. They found the girls and called 911.
The girls were taken to Wesley Medical Center for treatment. They are listed in fair condition at the hospital.
There was one child safety seat found in the Explorer, Herzet said.
“I am really surprised we didn’t have a triple fatality there, by the looks of the vehicle,” he said. “It just wasn’t their time to go.”
Herzet said investigators aren’t sure why the Explorer left the road.
White may have been distracted by something his children were doing, Herzet said, or a deer may have darted into the vehicle’s path.
“Right now, it’s a bad, bad time of year for deer,” he said.
Shortly after 1:30 a.m., Butler County authorities were notified of another crash — this one on K-254 near Benton.
A passing motorist called to report a white Honda Accord had rolled, ejecting the driver.
Deputies found 18-year-old Austin Taylor of Valley Center lying on the highway, Herzet said. He died in the crash.
An investigation showed he was driving west on K-254 when his car drifted into the ditch. He drove for a quarter of a mile in the ditch before trying to get back onto the highway.
The attempt sent the Accord into a roll, Herzet said, and it flipped several times. Taylor wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and he was thrown from the car.
“I don’t know if he fell asleep or if he saw a deer or if was distracted in the vehicle,” Herzet said of Taylor.
He had to have been traveling “at a pretty high rate of speed” to cover a quarter-mile in the ditch before trying to get back onto the highway, Herzet said.
“You jerk the wheel, and the next thing you know, you’re rolling,” Herzet said.
The crashes serve as a reminder of the importance of wearing your seatbelt, Herzet said.