Ammie Mboule knew the streets were going to get bad early Friday evening, so she was trying to get home as soon as she could.
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She didn’t make it.
As she was exiting westbound Kellogg into the central business district shortly after 6 p.m., she noticed a wreck blocking the lanes.
“I slowed down — it was a little bit slick — and a car came up from behind and hit me because they couldn’t slow down,” Mboule said as she stood in the frigid darkness downtown long after sunset.
She pulled her Nissan Altima to the side of the ramp, but another car hit her from behind — and then a truck slammed into the rear so hard the Altima spun and struck the concrete rail on the side of the ramp.
The impact was so jarring it threw two bags of deer food from the truck into the trunk of the Altima, which had been smashed open by the force of the collisions. Nearly two hours later, the bags of deer food lay haphazardly in or on the Altima.
“I floored it to get out of there” after the truck hit her, because she didn’t want to get struck any more, Mboule said. “As I pulled over” near an intersection, “I just kept hearing cars get hit.”
After she had checked on her 10-year-old son to make sure he was not hurt, Mboule walked up the ramp to see how bad it all was. She counted about 20 vehicles involved in the pileup.
Three minor injuries were reported, a Sedgwick County emergency dispatch supervisor said. Several towing companies were alerted to send trucks to the scene. The ramp was still blocked more than two hours after the pileup.
“People are just driving way too fast” for the icy conditions, Mboule said. “It was pretty slick on this ramp.”
The light freezing drizzle that hit during the evening commute is only the opening salvo of a winter storm that is expected to hammer most of Kansas through the weekend.
The Mboule family had had the Altima for only about three weeks after their previous vehicle was totaled by a driver going the wrong way down a one-way street after a Wichita Thunder game.
“And now this happens,” she said, shaking her head.
The pileup wasn’t the only traffic mess in Wichita spawned by the icy conditions. In the nearly five hours since the workday ended Friday, 65 traffic accidents were reported across Sedgwick County, an emergency dispatch supervisor said. There were another 38 calls for people who had been injured in some way.