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30-car pileup kills 1, hurts 6 seriously

A young child died and at least six others suffered critical wounds or head injuries Saturday in a series of crashes involving about 30 vehicles on I-35 near Wellsville.

Cars, pickups, minivans and a half-dozen tractor-trailers collided about 7:40 a.m., with some jackknifing and sliding one into the next.

Glass, debris and wrecked vehicles stretched a mile down the southbound lanes. A Highway Patrol spokeswoman said the largest of four separate crashes involved 19 vehicles. Six vehicles crashed in another accident.

"There were people out of their vehicles who were in shock, standing there bloody, in pain," said Mike McRoberts of Olathe, who was heading to his uncle's house south of Williamsburg with his brother, Pat McRoberts. "I gave my coat to one gentleman who had chest injuries and multiple lacerations."

Cathy Jankovich of Ottawa came upon the tangled mess from the northbound side.

"It was horrible," she said. "The semis seemed to have gotten the worst of it. They were nose-to-tail, and I mean the tail was in the nose."

Jankovich said the fog was terrible. "You could only see to the end of your headlights, maybe 500 feet at the most."

The largest accident began in the southbound lanes at the 194 mile marker, just south of the junction of I-35 and K-33.

The exact cause of the accidents is unknown. Roads were reported to be slick, with temperatures near freezing. Thick fog enveloped the highway.

The Highway Patrol said the chain reaction began with an accident involving a tow truck.

Emergency crews from Franklin, Miami, Johnson and Anderson counties descended on the wreck-strewn highway, as did 17 Kansas Highway Patrol troopers, Franklin County sheriff's personnel and others.

Thirteen injured motorists were taken to Olathe Medical Center, where 12 were treated and released. The University of Kansas Hospital received four victims, three in critical condition. The Highway Patrol said patients also went to two other hospitals.

Emergency road crews and police worked late into the evening Saturday to sort out the wreckage, prying vehicles from one another.

The highway remained closed for hours. Northbound traffic was moving again by midafternoon, and the southbound lanes opened about 9:30 p.m.

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