Crime & Courts

Family: Purple Heart recipient dies after being struck in hit-and-run near Haysville

A truck on Tuesday passes through where Grant Burris was struck in a hit-and-run collision near Haysville on May 12. (May 24, 2016)
A truck on Tuesday passes through where Grant Burris was struck in a hit-and-run collision near Haysville on May 12. (May 24, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Grant Burris, 31, a Marine who had served four tours in Iraq, was checking the mail at his parents’ house the evening of May 12.

Then a man driving a pickup on 87th Street near Haysville hit him from behind.

As Burris screamed in pain, his family said, the pickup drove away.

Burris was pronounced dead at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis at 2:33 p.m. Monday.

His family, along with other neighbors along that dirt road, say it has become unsafe as drivers have been traveling down 87th Street at high speeds to avoid construction at 79th Street.

“People are flying through it – a very, very bumpy dirt road,” said Sophia Silva, Burris’ sister-in-law. “It’s crazy dangerous.”

The crash

Burris was walking west on the north side of 87th Street when a pickup driven by 26-year-old Dreu Wikle struck him, according to a crash report from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office. He was hit within feet of the driveway of his parents’ home. There are no sidewalks on that portion of 87th Street.

A deputy responding to the crash noticed tire marks curving back south, according to the report.

Burris’ pelvis was shattered, his back was broken in four places, his hip was broken, and he had a laceration on the back of his head, according to family members.

Burris’ 18-year-old brother, Roger, stayed with him on 87th Street until the ambulance came, seeing him “torn up and screaming in pain,” Silva said.

A neighbor from across the street came to be with Burris as well.

“I knew laying there on the ground with him that it was serious,” Michelle Bass said.

I knew laying there on the ground with him that it was serious.

Michelle Bass, neighbor who comforted an injured Grant Burris

According to Sedgwick County Jail booking records, Wikle was booked into the jail May 14 on suspicion of aggravated battery and failure to stop at a crash resulting in great bodily harm.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Wikle was no longer in jail. Sheriff’s Lt. Lin Dehning said he bonded out on a $50,000 bond.

A spokesman with the District Attorney’s Office said the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office plans to present the case to the DA this week. More serious charges, to reflect the fact that Burris died, could come next week, he said.

Dehning said that at this point, investigators do not think speed was a factor in the crash.

It was more negligence than speed.

Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Lt. Lin Dehning

“It was more negligence than speed,” Dehning said.

The investigation is ongoing.

‘Still in shock’

Burris was taken to the hospital in serious condition and was later downgraded to critical condition, according to the report.

The ventilation tube he was forced to use eventually gave him pneumonia.

Burris’ family is “still in shock” from the crash, Silva said.

He was a “such a gentle and kind person, you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years” that he had such a military history, Silva said.

Burris received the Purple Heart after being wounded by shrapnel from a grenade that killed his best friend, said Roger Silva, Burris’ brother.

The driver

Wikle was driving a company pickup – from Luxury Lawn and Landscaping – when the crash happened, according to the sheriff’s report.

Cameron Marsolf, Luxury Lawn and Landscaping’s owner, said sheriff’s deputies found the truck at Luxury’s shop. Its right mirror was missing, he said.

Marsolf said Wikle did not know he had hit a person – he thought he had just taken out a mailbox.

“(Detectives) don’t know for sure what happened,” Marsolf said. “As far as a person goes, nobody (at the shop) knew anything about a person until the (deputy) came to where the truck was.”

According to the sheriff’s report, the truck sustained damage to its front and right side.

Marsolf said he is cooperating with the detectives.

Because the investigation is ongoing and Wikle has not been convicted of a crime, he remains an employee of Luxury Lawn and Landscaping, Marsolf said.

He expressed condolences for Burris’ family.

Road unsafe, neighbors say

A construction project at 79th Street and Broadway began April 4, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation. It will add turn lanes and a traffic signal to the intersection, according to a release from KDOT.

Traffic on Broadway has been closed at the intersection since then, forcing people to find other ways through the area.

87th Street is the first through street south of the intersection to Hydraulic.

Since the construction began, neighbors on 87th Street say traffic levels have risen to dangerous levels.

“In the three years we’ve lived here, we’ve never seen this much traffic,” Bass said. “On the paved side, that side is 55 (mph), but when you hit this dirt road, it’s 40 (mph). They decide they want to fly through here like it’s 55 or 60 (mph).”

Andy Samson, who lives next to where Burris was struck, said his son was almost clipped by a car recently while cutting weeds in the front yard.

“We used to have kids ride their horses and stuff down here, but we haven’t seen anyone ride horses in quite a while – it’s too dangerous,” Samson said. “They come through at 50, 55 (mph) all the time … nothing seems to slow them.”

They come through at 50, 55 (mph) all the time ... nothing seems to slow them.

Andy Samson, neighbor on 87th Street

Dehning, the sheriff’s spokesman, said deputies have patrolled the area more frequently recently in response to neighbors’ complaints.

But Samson said the increased presence of sheriff’s deputies has not slowed traffic.

“It doesn’t seem to faze them,” he said.

Bass said she doesn’t let her children go outdoors unsupervised anymore. She called on KDOT to open at least one lane of traffic at 79th and Broadway so that drivers don’t have to divert through the neighborhood.

Tom Hein, public affairs manager for KDOT Wichita Metro, said the recent stormy weather has delayed the project. The department is predicting construction will be done in August.

“From what I was hearing from the construction engineer, he said they’re getting close,” Hein said. “But I don’t think, especially with these weather delays, that we’re ready to put any kind of finish date on it.”

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt