A 25-year-old snowplow driver for the Kansas Department of Transportation was killed Saturday in what officials say was a single-vehicle rollover.
The victim was identified as Stephen N. Windler in an online crash report by the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Windler, of Paola, was described as “both experienced and dedicated to serving the people of Johnson County and the state of Kansas” in a Saturday afternoon news conference led the Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz. He had been with KDOT for three years.
“I’ve extended my thoughts and prayers to the entire KDOT family this morning and we will continue to embrace Stephen’s family and friends affected by this loss,” Lorenz said.
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The crash happened before 6 a.m. Saturday. The driver apparently rolled over on Highway 69 south of 207th Street in South Johnson County. Roads had turned slick late Friday night and into Saturday as a winter storm descended on the area with frigid temperatures.
According to the highway patrol’s online crash report, for an unknown reason, Windler’s truck “traveled to the right, traversing the shoulder and drove into the grass.” The truck rotated counter-clockwise, overturned and rolled, dumping salt and ejecting the driver. The truck came to a rest on its passenger side, on top of the driver, the report said.
The driver, later identified as Windler, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the highway patrol.
Lorenz said during the news conference, which was streamed on Facebook, that Windler was out treating the roads by himself at the time of the crash.
“When people are out there clearing the roads, they are putting their lives at risk so that we can be safe, and we all owe state workers a debt of gratitude for keeping us safe,” Lorenz said.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly also responded through a statement and on Twitter: “My heart is breaking for the family of this dedicated KDOT employee,” she wrote. “Our KDOT personnel work very hard, at all hours, in dangerous conditions to make our roads safer for their fellow Kansas citizens. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and the entire KDOT family at this devastating time.”