Heavy rains and strong winds caused a pair of accidents that injured at least four people late Monday night – including three emergency responders, authorities said.
Firefighters and paramedics had responded to an accident shortly before 11:30 p.m. in the eastbound lanes of Kellogg near the Edwards exit, after a driver had lost control and gone down the embankment, Wichita Deputy Fire Chief Elizabeth “Tammi” Snow said.
The injured driver had been secured onto a spine board as a precaution and was about to be transferred to a gurney for loading into an ambulance when an eastbound car struck the median and careened between a fire truck and the ambulance, striking the two firefighters and a paramedic, Snow said.
“Very easily, we could have had some fatalities out of that,” Snow said, adding that her immediate reaction upon hearing of the collision was “panic and prayer.”
The vehicle struck the initial crash victim with such force that the spine board he was on “did helicopter twirls” through the air before landing on the ground, Snow said. Yet the man strapped onto the board was not hurt by the impact.
“It was such tight packaging,” Snow said of the cervical collar and strapping, “that he stayed on the spine board.”
The two firefighters, men ages 29 and 31, were treated and released from Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis. The paramedic, a woman, was also treated and released.
The man on the spine board was also treated and released, she said.
The National Weather Service reported heavy rain and winds gusting to 40 miles an hour shortly before the accidents occurred.
Following standard procedure, the fire truck and ambulance were parked in a V formation on Kellogg to offer a “safe zone” within which the firefighters and paramedics can work, Snow said. But the car careened from the median in such a way that it hit the fire truck and came through the bottom of the V.
“It was just one of those things,” Snow said. “If we tried to re-create it, we probably couldn’t.”
The formation of the vehicles still managed to deflect most of the impact away from the firefighters and paramedic, she said.
A police report on the incident indicates drunken driving is suspected. Blood tests are being conducted to see if the driver of the second vehicle was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the collision.