Crime & Courts

Teen killed in crash lost brother in prior crash

For the second time in four months, a Wellington family is dealing with the death of a child in an alcohol-related crash.

Brayden Popplewell, 19, was killed in a two-vehicle crash in Sumner County on Saturday.

Authorities said that Popplewell was a passenger in a vehicle driven by 19-year-old Patrick R. Burr of Geuda Springs.

Burr appeared in court Monday and faces several charges in connection with the accident, including involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence, failure to yield and transporting an open container, according to the Sumner County attorney. He is scheduled to be formally charged today, County Attorney Evan Watson said.

The crash came four months after Popplewell's brother, 22-year-old Dustin Wiley, died from injuries he suffered in a crash.

"Right now, we're just really numb," Laura Popplewell, their mother, said Monday.

The crash that killed Brayden Popplewell occurred on the same road and just seven miles from a crash in which she was critically injured in March.

She suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash and was in a coma for 25 days, Laura Popplewell said.

"She pulled through that," her mother said, "and we took her to rehab and brought her home, and she'd been recovering."

Laura Popplewell said her daughter was taking courses at Cowley College.

"She wanted to go into education and eventually get her degree to be a guidance counselor," Laura Popplewell said. "She would have been wonderful at it."

Brayden Popplewell had attended a hair design academy in Wichita beginning in late 2008 until the crash in March.

Mary-Kate Elliott said she met Popplewell at the academy and they became friends.

She described Popplewell as an "amazing" woman who had an infectious laugh and who was a friend to everyone.

"She made you feel like you could breathe when you were around her," Elliott said. "If you were having a bad day, all of a sudden all your troubles just went away when you came around her."

Authorities said Popplewell was one of three passengers in the 2007 Dodge truck driven by Burr.

The crash was reported at about 11:50 p.m. Saturday. It occurred on South Oliver Road, about four miles south of U.S. 160 and nine miles southeast of Wellington, according to the Sumner County Sheriff's Office.

Burr failed to yield and collided with a 2000 Mercury that was southbound on Oliver, the Sheriff's Office said.

Popplewell was pronounced dead at the scene. Another passenger was flown by helicopter to a Wichita hospital and was listed in fair condition Monday.

The other passengers in the truck — and the driver and passenger in the Mercury — suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to the sheriff's office.

In the March 7 crash, Popplewell was one of three passengers in a vehicle driven by a 22-year-old Wellington man, according to an accident report.

He was driving a vehicle north in the 300 block of North Oliver, where it crossed the center line and entered the west ditch. The car flipped twice, ejecting all four people, according to the report.

The man was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, but the charge was later dismissed for insufficient evidence, according to the Sumner County Attorney's office.

Three months later, Popplewell's brother died in a one-vehicle crash in the 1400 block of South U.S. 81.

According to an accident report, Dustin Wiley was driving north on the highway when a deer came onto the roadway and struck the front of the vehicle.

The vehicle skidded into a ditch, rolled several times, then rolled back across U.S. 81 into the east ditch, according to the report.

Sumner County Sheriff Gerald Gilkey said it was later determined that Wiley had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

Laura Popplewell said that she had talked to her children about making good choices, and wished they had made better ones.

"They were good kids," she said. "Both of them had very bright futures."

She said that the Wellington community has responded with an outpouring of support and love for the family.

"I just appreciate everyone's thoughtfulness and concern for our family," she said.

She said the family — including their two other children, ages 18 and 15 — will also turn to each other for support and will rely on prayers.

"That's what's going to get us through," she said.