Truck fire in Pratt on Wednesday: Cause still unknown, driver still unidentified

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
A 2017 semi tractor was fully involved in a very hot fire near the intersection of U.S. Highways 54 and 61 on Wednesday morning in Pratt. Cause of the fire remains undetermined and the identity of the driver, who was unhurt, remains a mystery.

Questions remain unanswered about who was driving the 2017 Kenworth semi tractor-trailer owned by Sun Vally Trucks, Inc. that caught fire at the intersection of U.S. Highways 54 and 61 at 9:40 on Wednesday morning in Pratt, and what started the fire. But the inferno that resulted made a big impression on many who were thankful no one was hurt in the incident.

“We are not at liberty to release any details about what happened or who was driving because the incident is still under investigation,” said Nick Niemeyer, Safety Manager for Sun Valley Trucks in Hutchinson. “It was a very unfortunate incident and we are very thankful no one was hurt.”

Pratt resident Brendan Leslie, who was on his way home from a workout at the local gym, said he pulled up to the busy U.S. 54/61 intersection and noticed smoke coming from up ahead of him but couldn’t see what was happening because of other traffic in the way until the stoplight changed.

“I got closer and was like, holy crap, that truck is fully engulfed in fire,” Leslie said. “I saw the driver jump out and he was okay, so I pulled around the corner and parked and started filming.”

Leslie’s video, posted on Facebook, shows an intense and fast-consuming fire that quickly burned the entire cab and engine area of the semi tractor before City of Pratt firefighters arrived minutes later on the scene.

“We were not able to pin-point the exact place where the fire started because there was so much damage by the time we got there,” said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer. “In order to clear the area and get out of the traffic lane, the remains of the truck were moved as soon as possible and by that time the driver had disappeared and we were not able to get a name or any of that information at the scene.”

The semi-truck engine and cab were a complete loss, and the wreckage was removed from the scene by Southwest Truck Parts employees.

Another incident involving a semi-tractor-trailer rig also occurred earlier on the same Wednesday morning in Pratt County when a roll-over took place at 1:36 a.m. near Preston.

According to a press release from the Pratt County Sheriff’s Office, Pratt County Sheriff Units, along with Pratt County Rescue and EMS were dispatched to K61 Highway and 6th Street in Preston after the driver of a 2017 Volvo semi-tractor pulling a Van-type trailer exited the roadway then over-corrected on re-entry, causing the vehicle to roll-over.

The rig, filled with produce, was driven by Harcharan Singh, 47, of California, who was accompanied by his son Jeppreet Singh, 22, also of California. Neither of them were injured and both were wearing seat-belts at the time of the accident.

Both lanes of K61 were shut down from 1:36 a.m. until 6:30 a.m., according to Pratt County Sheriff’s Sergeant #12 Ryan F. Laney.