ShareThis Page
Flood sweeps cars off highway |

Flood sweeps cars off highway

| Monday, September 1, 2003 12:00 a.m

EMPORIA, Kan. — Flash flooding swept seven vehicles off an interstate highway, killing four children, three of them strapped inside a mini-van that was dragged for more than a mile by the rushing water. Rescuers on Sunday were still searching for the children’s mother and a driver from Texas.

Everyone was accounted for in the other five vehicles that were swept off the roadway in eastern Kansas when torrential rain sent a creek spilling over Interstate 35 late Saturday, authorities said.

“It happened really fast, there was nothing that could be done,” said the Rev. Steve Gordon, a driver who escaped unharmed. “It was a sick feeling just watching them go under.”

The mini-van was found 1.5 miles from the scene with the children still in it. The fourth child was found yesterday morning about a quarter-mile from the van. The children’s father survived, but searchers were still looking for the mother, said Capt. Mark Conboy of the Kansas Highway Patrol. Police have not released the names of the victims.

The only other person who had not been accounted for yesterday was a man from Fort Worth, Texas. Conboy said the man had called his wife Saturday evening, told her his Jeep had stalled and asked her to come get him. The wife, who arrived yesterday morning, has not heard from him since.

“We believe he got out first and was out trying to help people,” Conboy said. “That was just based on what he told his wife.”

Yesterday, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks was using boats, four-wheel-drive vehicles and a helicopter to search the low-lying, rocky area in the Flint Hills, which is bordered by the usually small Jacob’s Creek.

The two missing people were presumed dead, “but you can’t give up hope,” Conboy said.

The search would resume today if necessary, he said.

Light rain fell while search crews worked, following a downpour of more than 8 to 12 inches in a 24-hour period starting early Saturday.

The highway began flooding Saturday evening as heavy rain created a torrent in the creek. The creek, which at one point passes through a culvert under the highway, overflowed. As the water spilled into the roadway, cars were forced to stop.

The water “looked like a river going across the road,” said Gordon, who was returning to the Bethany Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo., from Dallas. “The concrete barriers (between lanes) were being tossed around like feathers.”

Conboy estimated the water was six to seven feet deep along the section of interstate.

Gordon saw three cars in the southbound lanes swept under water. J.R. Robinson, who was with Gordon, saw four or five. A highway patrolman used a bullhorn to get people to stop driving through the water, but many didn’t heed the warning, Gordon said.

The flooding washed out chunks of the interstate and swept some of the heavy concrete barriers — which weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds — 50 to 60 yards from the roadway, and the abandoned vehicles could be seen strewn about the valley.

Saturday’s storm had earlier hit Dodge City, in southwest Kansas, dropping 4 to 7 inches of rain and stranding motorists in high water.

“We’ve seen some of the vehicles floating down the road,” said Dodge City Police Sgt. Steven George.

The National Weather Service said heavy rain was expected to continue in some areas.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.