No cause yet in wreck that killed team drivers

| Monday, July 07, 2003

An investigator in Johnson County, KS, said July 3 that law-enforcement officials have not yet been able to determine what caused an accident that killed a husband-and-wife driving team near DeSoto, KS.

Lt. John Resman of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said many of the obvious possible causes had been ruled out.

“There’s no hidden health issues and we can’t find anything wrong with the truck,” he told Land Line.

Truckdrivers Brad and Brenda Umholtz of DeSoto 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.

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 center line, hitting a guard rail on the opposite side of the street and falling 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.

Early media reports indicated that the semi may have been pushed off the bridge by a speeding vehicle. However, Resman said that was not true.

“There was a car behind them that saw them go over the bridge,” he said, but no other vehicles were present.

“We’re still looking at a lot of different little things that may play a part in it,” he said.

The fact that health and mechanical problems have been ruled out doesn’t make finding the cause any easier, he added. “We may never know.”

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.

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