Two men are in jail – one of them facing a possible charge of involuntary manslaughter – following a series of collisions early Wednesday morning on the Kansas Turnpike, one of which killed a 60-year-old Wichita man, authorities said.
The arrested men were driving school buses back to their native Mexico – each towing one school bus behind the one they were driving – when one of the buses being towed got a flat tire at about midnight a mile north of the K-15 exit in south Wichita, Kansas Turnpike Capt. Joe Bott said.
The 45-year-old driver unhooked the two buses and parked the bus he was driving behind the disabled bus, facing north in the southbound lanes. One of the other buses being towed also became disabled at nearly the same time, Bott said, and the two drivers were working on the bus with the flat tire in the inside lane of southbound traffic.
Two passenger cars coming south collided with each other attempting to avoid the buses stopped in the inside lanes of the turnpike, Bott said. Those two cars, in turn, became disabled and could not clear the lanes.
A 28-year-old Emporia man driving a semi was able to stop in the outside lane before striking either passenger car, according to the turnpike authority report.
Donald Putman of Wichita tried to avoid the halted semi by moving to the inside lane of the turnpike, but his car was struck by a pickup driven by a 57-year-old Haysville man and forced into the rear axle of the semi.
Putman, 60, was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.
“He unfortunately was just in a bad spot, through no fault of his own,” Bott said of Putman. “When you’re running 75 miles per hour and then traffic is just stopped in front of you, it can be very difficult” to avoid bad outcomes.
Alfonso Cano-Corral, 45, was arrested and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of several crimes, including involuntary manslaughter, driving the wrong way in one-way traffic and unlawful equipment. He is being held without bond at the request of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ubaldo Corea-Madrid, 57, was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of no valid driver’s license and unlawful equipment. He is being held on $100,000 bond.
Authorities did not discuss the men’s immigration status.
The buses had been purchased at a vehicle auction in Columbia, Mo., Bott said, and the men were taking them to Mexico.
All southbound lanes of the turnpike were closed near Milepost 46 for more than six hours early Wednesday before reopening shortly before 6:30 a.m., a turnpike dispatcher said.