A Russell County man died and a rural Elllinwood man was injured when two large trucks collided at an intersection four miles south of Claflin Thursday afternoon in a fiery crash.
According to Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir, at about 12:20 p.m. deputies were dispatched to a motor vehicle crash at the intersection of NE 130 Avenue and NE 70 Road in rural Barton County south of Claflin. The individual who reported the crash stated two trucks had collided at that location and were on fire.
Upon arrival, BCSO deputies found the trucks on the roadway completely engulfed in flames. Deputies were advised that the driver of one of the vehicles was still in the cab.
Bellendir said investigation at the scene indicates a 2005 Mack truck configured as a water hauler, driven by 36-year-old Eric M. Steinert of rural Russell, was loaded with water and southbound on Northeast 130 Avenue, Steinert was pronounced deceased at the scene by the Barton County Coroner’s Office.
The second vehicle, a 1995 Peterbilt truck tractor with a flatbed semi-trailer loaded with a Kenworth truck tractor, was approaching the intersection westbound on NE 70 Road. The Peterbilt was operated by 66-year-old David P. Wirth of rural Ellinwood.
Wirth was transported to University of Kansas Health System - Great Bend Campus by Claflin EMS. He sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was treated and released.
Bellendir said investigation indicates Wirth failed to yield right-of-way at the intersection, pulling into the path of the southbound Mack truck. After impact the vehicles traveled in a southwesterly direction, coming to rest in the west ditch.
The Kenworth truck that was loaded on Wirth’s vehicle broke free and came to rest on the roadway. The tank on the Mack was torn from its mounts also coming to rest on the roadway. Shortly after impact all three trucks caught fire.
The fire traveled down the ditch on both sides of the roadway setting fire to two fields and multiple round bales of hay that were approximately one quarter of a mile away. The Claflin Fire Department was able to quickly bring the blaze under control, Bellendir said.
BCSO deputies and other emergency personnel were on the scene until after 8 p.m. conducting the investigation and clearing the roadway of debris.
The Barton County Sheriff’s Office was assisted at scene by the Claflin Fire Department, Claflin EMS, Ellinwood Fire Department, a Kansas Highway Patrol accident reconstruction trooper, the Barton County Coroner’s Office, Barton County Highway Department, and Murphy Truck and Equipment of Great Bend.
The accident remains under investigation.