By Stan Finger
The Wichita Eagle
WICHITA, Kan — A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper seriously injured when his patrol car was rear-ended while stopped behind a semi on the shoulder of the Kansas Turnpike remains in critical condition at a local hospital, authorities said Wednesday.
The trooper, 36-year-old Da'Von Brame, is "very lucky" to be alive, Lt. John Lehnherr said.
Brame had pulled over a semi for inspection on the shoulder of the northbound lanes of the turnpike near the Kellogg interchange, officials have said, when his patrol car was rear-ended at about 7:05 p.m. by a Toyota Tundra driven by a 23-year-old Haysville man.
The force of the impact pushed the trooper's Crown Victoria into the back of the semi, Lehnherr said. Brame was inside the patrol car at the time of the crash. He was taken to Wesley Medical Center.
"His condition is improving and not considered to be life threatening," Rachel Bell, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Turnpike Authority, said in an e-mail response to questions. "They believe he could be released in a day or two. Right now, they are wanting mostly to observe his condition very closely."
Brame has been with the highway patrol for 11 years and assigned to the Turnpike Authority for two years, Lehnherr said.
It appears the patrol car was hit "at highway speed," he said. The speed limit for the turnpike is 75 miles an hour.
The driver of the Tundra told law enforcement officers he sneezed just before the crash, Lehnherr said. The driver refused medical treatment at the scene but was taken to a local hospital so blood could be drawn to see whether he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Investigators are checking the driver's cellphone to see whether he was talking or texting at the time of the crash. They also plan to download information from the Tundra's module to determine the vehicle's actual speed and whether the driver applied the brakes prior to impact, Lehnherr said.
Records show the driver has been issued at least six speeding tickets in recent years, including one in February 2011 for doing 92 on the turnpike a mile north of the Mulvane exit. Sedgwick County District Court records indicate Brame was not the trooper who issued that ticket.
Kansas Highway Patrol cars have a fire suppression system that deploys foam around the fuel tank upon a rear-end impact, Lehnherr said. That feature worked as designed Tuesday night, he said, and that may well have saved Brame's life.
"It was hit so hard," Lehnherr said of the patrol car. "I've been in this 20 years, and that's the hardest I've ever seen a car hit."
Turnpike officials stressed the importance of traffic moving over to the next lane when law enforcement, emergency personnel or construction and maintenance workers are working.
Copyright 2014 The Wichita Eagle
McClatchy-Tribune News Service