Semis jack-knife on east and west sides of Pratt; major highways slick.
A couple of semi truck drivers took unexpected trips Sunday mornings when their vehicles hit black ice and slid of the road in Pratt County.
Ice coated roads, streets and sidewalks as a pre-winter storm made its way across the area. The ice made traveling conditions hazardous across the area.
At 8:38 a.m., emergency units responded to a vehicle in the ditch at North U.S. 281 and 80th Street. When units arrived, the vehicle had gotten out of the ditch on its own and was gone, said Pratt County Sheriff Jimmy White.
Just a few minutes later at 8:49 a.m. an eastbound 2009 Kenworth semi, driven by 32-year-old Jorge Avellar of Ontario, Calif. jackknifed just east of U.S. 54 and 140th Avenue, slid into the north ditch and laid over on its side. Avellar was wearing a seat-belt and was not injured in the accident. Pratt County Sheriff, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism law enforcement, Pratt County EMS, Pratt County Fire and Rescue were all dispatched to the accident.
Jason Harrold, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Game Warden, said the highways and blacktops were so icy that he took country roads to the scene for safety. He said the semi hit black ice, causing the driver to lose control. The semi was off the road way and did not block the highway.
At 10:31 a.m. a second semi accident took place when a 2020 Kenworth semi, driven by 37-year-old Vladimir Marinkovic, was westbound on East U.S. 54 just east of SW 25th Avenue when his vehicle hit black ice, jackknifed, slid across the highway and rolled onto its side in the north ditch. The semi trailer split open and some of his cargo, pre-assembled cabinets, spilled out in the ditch. Again, the semi was off the road and not blocking traffic.
The same first responders were dispatched to the second accident. Marinkovic, who was wearing a seat-belt at the time of the accident, was treated at the scene for minor cuts to his arms from glass.
While the road conditions were icy, there were only these three incidents of vehicles going off the road in Pratt County. White said he was surprised there was not more.
The icy conditions were not isolated in Pratt County. Other counties were also having the same issues with slick roads.
“I could hear them in Barber and Kiowa County. Everybody’s radios were going nuts,” White said.
During the investigations at these accidents, a number of semis went past traveling at or almost at the regular speed limit. With these icy conditions, traveling at regular highway speeds can be dangerous because its hard to stop safely and vehicles can hit black ice and slide off the road or into oncoming traffic.
“People need to slow down,” White said. “You don’t know when you will hit a whole section of ice.”
During icy conditions, people need to pay attention to their surroundings. Just because the road looks clear doesn’t mean it’s not icy. Blacktop roads are always very dangerous in these conditions. Drivers need to be extra cautious at bridges. They can freeze before other stretches of road.
When vehicles go off the road and into the ditch, White prefers to wait until the vehicle can be removed without icy conditions. People may get upset that it takes time to get their vehicle out of the ditch but its more important to keep officers, rescue workers and EMS safe than to recover a vehicle in dangerous conditions, White said.
While this was a serious situation, with just three incidents, it could have been much more worse.
“I’ve seen worse than this,” White said.
When people are driving in these conditions, they can follow too close to slower moving vehicles and lose their patience and that’s when people have accidents.