Arlene Root didn’t do anything wrong.
“Unfortunately, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Wichita police Lt. Joe Schroeder said of Root, 89, who was killed in a three-vehicle collision late Monday morning.
Root died at the scene shortly before 11 a.m. at Central and Dougherty, just west of West Street, Schroeder said.
She was driving west in the right lane of Central in a gray 1950 Plymouth. She was being passed on the inside lane by a pickup pulling a trailer loaded with lawn equipment, Schroeder said. An eastbound pickup drifted across the center turning lane and into the westbound lanes, prompting the 43-year-old driver of the westbound pickup to swerve in an attempt to avoid a collision.
The drifting eastbound pickup hit just behind the driver’s door of the westbound pickup, causing it to overturn and forcing the trailer to hit Root’s antique car.
The car was crushed, and she was pinned inside, Schroeder said. She died at the scene.
The two pickup drivers were taken to Wesley Medical Center’s west campus, where they were treated and released.
“At this point, speed is not necessarily a critical factor, but it could be a contributing factor,” Schroeder said.
While several people heard the collision and saw its aftermath, Schroeder said, police want to hear from anyone who may have seen the eastbound pickup’s behavior in the moments leading up to the crash.
Toxicology tests are being conducted to determine whether the driver, a 34-year-old man from El Dorado, was under the influence of anything that would leave him impaired, Schroeder said. Glare does not appear to be a factor, Schroeder said, because skies were partly cloudy and it was late morning.
“At this point we have no idea why he crossed” into oncoming traffic, Schroeder said of the El Dorado man.
Anyone who saw the pickups in the moments leading up the collision are asked to call Detective Paul Kimble at 316-268-4131.
“At this point, we don’t have any other witnesses other than the drivers who survived,” Schroeder said.
Root is the 15th person to die in a traffic accident this year in Wichita. There were 11 through the same day a year ago. The 2013 total has been boosted by accidents that have claimed multiple victims, Schroeder said.