Her 1991 Honda Accord had broken down in the southbound lanes of I-135 just north of the Central exit early Wednesday morning, and Audrey Lewis was on the phone with a 911 operator.
She never finished the call.
A Dodge Caravan struck the Accord from behind shortly before 1:40 a.m., the Kansas Highway Patrol reported. Lewis, 53, was killed.
Calvin Huff, the 68-year-old driver of the SUV, was taken to Wesley Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
"It's just a catastrophe for the families and for the people involved," Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Warner said.
Lewis was not wearing a seat belt, Warner said, and that may have played a role in the collision's outcome.
Investigators are still piecing together details of the incident, including what role — if any — speed may have played in the crash. The speed limit on I-135 near Central is 60 mph.
"Let's say that maybe the flashers were not on — just the headlights were on," Warner said. "That would mean you only have taillights in the back. If you're driving along and you see taillights, it may take a few moments to realize it's not moving."
And in those few moments, the opportunity to avoid a collision can vanish.
"It's easy for me to see how a crash like that could occur," Warner said.
Drivers who find themselves in a similar situation should immediately put on their flashers, call 911 and stay buckled up inside their vehicles — especially on elevated roads such as the Canal Route portion of I-135.
In those locations, Warner said, "there's no place of safety."