Out-of-control car that killed Kansas teen nearly hit three other kids, report says

An out-of-control car that killed a middle school girl on April 12 in Overland Park barely missed three other children as it careened on its deadly path down a sidewalk, according to a report from Overland Park police.

A crash report released by the Overland Park Police Department Monday morning said the driver, identified as 70-year-old Sudhir S. Gandhi of Lenexa, told investigators the brakes failed on his car.

The car struck and killed 14-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Rumple, a student at nearby Oxford Middle School, who was walking home from school. Alex died days later from her injuries.

The crash occurred about 3:15 p.m. near the middle school at 12500 Switzer Road.

Police are still investigating the crash. Monday’s report said Gandhi had a valid license without any restrictions and showed no evidence of impairment. Toxicology results were pending.

According to the report:

Witnesses told police that Gandhi was headed north on Switzer in a tan 2006 Ford Taurus. The car drove up on the sidewalk on the east side of Switzer.

Lucas Smith of Overland Park, who was headed to a landscaping job in the area with co-workers, said Monday that they were driving south on Switzer when he noticed a car traveling at high speeds in the opposite direction on the sidewalk.

“He was doing about 60 (mph) down the sidewalk as the schools were letting out,” Smith said.

They saw the car in front of the middle school and it was airborne, probably three feet in the air, he estimated.

“It’s a little out of the ordinary seeing someone driving down the sidewalk, let alone at highway speeds,” Lucas said.

As the car crossed West 124th Street, it continued on the sidewalk and grass parkway, where it almost struck three children who were exiting the crosswalk on the northeast corner, near Oak Hill Elementary School. They had just been escorted across the street by a school crossing guard, according to the report.

The car continued north on the sidewalk where it hit a small sign and a yellow bush before striking a telephone cable box to the east of the sidewalk.

Susan Spillman of Overland Park said Monday that she was driving north with her high school daughter when she heard the sound of a car driving fast. It struck her as being odd because there was a fair amount of slow moving traffic and nearby schools were letting out.

Looking in her rearview mirror, she saw a “cloud of dust” and then on her right side a tan sedan sped past on the sidewalk. She estimated the car was going more than 50 mph.

Spillman had her daughter dial 911. While asking for police to be sent, Spillman realized that an ambulance was needed. She saw Alex lying motionless in the street.

The car had struck the girl, who was walking several feet south of the 123rd Street intersection, according to the report.

The force of the crash propelled Alex onto the hood of the car, where the windshield hit her head. As the car crossed over 123rd, Alex was thrown from the car and landed in the left lane of northbound Switzer.

Spillman stopped immediately. As others rushed to Alex, she went to be with two children, a brother and sister, who witnessed the crash.

Gandhi’s car continued on and struck a traffic light, knocking it off its base. As the car continued north, it briefly re-entered the northbound lanes of Switzer. Arcing tire marks show the car entered the left lane of Switzer before swinging back off the right side of the road where it struck a speed limit sign, according to the report.

The car then slammed into the corner post of a wooden fence, destroying about 80 feet of the fence. The car stopped in the right lane of Switzer facing northeast.

The car had extensive damage to the front, both fenders and the hood. The windshield was heavily damaged from the impact with Alex and the right side doors were peeled off from the impact with a bracing beam from the fence.

The driver, Gandhi, told police that he remembered driving near West 129th Street and Switzer and that someone was in the roadway. He said he tried to stop, but the brakes were not working and he continued north until he hit the fence.

Police initially said they thought the car first went off the roadway near West 127th Street and Switzer Road and then continued north.

Gandhi was taken to the hospital because he may have lost consciousness while driving.

Attempts to reach Gandhi Monday morning were not immediately successful.


How did we report this story?

Soon after the wreck, Star reporters contacted the Overland Park Police Department and requested a copy of the crash report produced by investigators. The Police Department released the report to The Star Monday morning. The documents detailed the path of the car, named the driver, and stated that the driver told police his brakes were not working. The Star produced a video illustrating the car’s path based on the report.

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.
Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.