Kansas trucking couple die when rig falls from bridge

| 6/26/2003

Truckdrivers Brad and Brenda Umholtz of DeSoto, KS, were killed June 24 when their tractor-trailer went over the side of the Kansas River bridge in the small town east of the Kansas City metropolitan area, the Johnson County, KS, Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

When officers arrived at the scene at 8:20 p.m. June 24, they found the cab lying on the driver’s side in the river, 65 feet below the bridge surface. Deputies said the truck appeared to be headed south on the bridge, which carries Wyandotte Street from rural Leavenworth County on the north side into DeSoto and Johnson County on the south.

The vehicle crossed the centerline, hit a guard rail on the opposite side of the street and fell into the river.

According to local media reports, because of the truck’s location in the middle of the river, local rescue officials had to call for assistance from other area cities. Once help arrived, it took divers 45 minutes to reach the gray truck, Tyler Butts, spokesman for the Overland Park Fire Department, told The Kansas City Star.

The accident is under investigation by the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff's Office. The Star reported that authorities were looking for a witness who they said was driving behind the Umholtz’s truck. In addition, KMBC television reported the semi may have been pushed off the bridge by a speeding vehicle.

The Umholtzes, who were both in their 40s, were team drivers for Gainey Transportation Service Inc., Grand Rapids, MI. Gainey officials declined to comment until more information was available.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mreddig@landlinemag.com.