Kevin Beggs is a well-known figure around Wellington.
For 10 years he owned and operated a bakery and, for a short time, a theater. He drove kids to and from the Baptist church in town on Wednesdays for its weekly youth program. Beggs is also a former president of the Wellington Area Chamber of Commerce.
So when word got around that he was injured in a train accident almost a month ago, support – and, for some, disbelief – spread through the small town south of Wichita.
It was like any other night of work at the rail yard for Beggs.
Beggs and other Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway employees were moving cars around the rail yard to prepare the next train for departure when suddenly Beggs was thrown from one of the cars.
Beggs hit the ground, but not far enough away from the railcar. He was pinned between the tracks and the wheels.
The train had run over the upper portion of Beggs’ legs, and for 45 excruciating minutes, he would remain there, conscious, while others tried to free him.
Employees and emergency crews rushed to Beggs’ aid. They had to be careful, though.
For those 45 minutes, the crew tried to figure out how to lift the train off Beggs while minimizing any further damage – and keeping Beggs alive.
A fellow employee knew how to operate the railcar. He knew how to keep the cars’ wheels from moving and perhaps, more important, how to keep the railcar from coming apart as they lifted it off Beggs.
Wellington Fire Chief Tim Hay said they used a jack to lift the train, but also had to use another tool to keep the chassis from separating from the railcar itself, which would create a potentially disastrous situation.
The accident happened at about 2:20 a.m. on July 9. Since then, Beggs has remained at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.
Now Beggs, 45, and his family face an uncertain future.
Karla Defore, Beggs’ sister, said her brother has always been an active person, “someone who likes to tinker with things, do stuff.”
“He’s one of those guys that has always done a lot for other people,” Defore said. “That’s one of the great things about the community’s support – he’s always been good to other people and now it’s coming back to him.”
Beggs has worked for BNSF Railway since 2006 – after he sold the bakery and theater – but remained active around the community, especially at First Free Will Baptist Church.
Recently, Beggs served as the driver on Wednesdays to pick up kids around town for the church’s weekly youth program.
“I could call him 10 minutes before it was time for the bus to leave, and he’d be willing to do it,” said Charlotte Brooks, whose husband is the church’s pastor.
“Just about with anything we’ve done, if there was any way he could help, he would,” Brooks said of Beggs.
On Saturday, family and friends will host a benefit dinner and bake sale at the Knights of Columbus building from 5 to 7 p.m. A fund has also been set up at the Panhandle Federal Credit Union in Wellington.
Brooks is one of those helping organize Saturday’s fundraiser. Her husband rushed to Wichita in the hours following the accident and has visited nearly every day since then.
Jane Cole, a close friend of the family, said Beggs is pretty lucky to have survived.
“There is absolutely no reason he should have made it through this,” she said. “But he did; there’s a reason.”
Defore, the sister, described Beggs as an optimist and someone “who doesn’t do a lot of sitting on their rear end,” something Beggs will take some time getting used to.
“He’s an innovation type of guy,” Defore said. “Always wanting to find out how to do something better.
“I told him when he starts doing physical therapy, ‘Do everything they tell you,’ and then he’ll tell them what they’re doing wrong and how to do it better.”