Fatal accident on U.S. 56 claims county resident; cause is undetermined

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
A Marion County man was pronounced dead at the scene when his car drifted across the center line on U.S. Highway 56 and hit a truck head-on Sept 7.

Andrew John Maki, 58, was westbound driving a 1991 Plymouth at 4:50 p.m., when he crossed the line near the intersection of U.S. 56 and Pawnee, 11/2 miles east of Marion. Maki hit a semi driven by Charles E. Jones, 51, of Chanute.

Sitting behind the wheel of a 2003 Kenworth truck, Jones was not injured in the accident. Both men were wearing their safety belts, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

No passengers were reported in either vehicles at the time of the incident.

First on the scene was Sgt. Jeff Soyez of the Marion Country Sheriff’s Office. Others responding were officials from the Hillsboro Police Department, Hillsboro and Marion ambulances and the Marion Rescue truck.

Highway Patrol Officer Mike Ottensmeier said Gene Winkler, with the Marion Rescue truck, had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate Maki from his vehicle.

Maki was pronounced dead on the scene by the Marion County Coroner, and an autopsy was completed Sept. 9.

“We haven’t gotten the toxicology report back from the medical examiner’s office yet,” Ottensmeier said three days later.

“We have two theories” at this time. “It was either a medical condition, or he just wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. Because there was no other traffic around. That time of day, the sun wasn’t in his eyes, it was a nice sunny day, and the streets were dry.”

By press time, the exact speed the vehicles were traveling was not available.

“I would say both vehicles were doing highway speed, so every bit of 60 to 65 miles per hour” Ottensmeier said.

“That’s a pretty good ‘guestimation’ as far as the amount of damage caused to both vehicles. The semi truck sustained pretty severe damage, too.”

Jones was hauling salvage vehicles attached to a roll-back wrecker platform behind the cab of the truck. When the truck and the car collided, the Plymouth went under the cab.

“He hit the left front bumper, and then the front-left steering-drive tire went up over the car,” Ottensmeier said.

“The car then came back out from underneath the cab, continuing west, and it spun around two times and then ended up coming to rest in the north ditch of (U.S.) 56 there at the 200 (mile marker) facing east.”

Ottensmeier said at the scene of the accident, he talked to the truck driver. The driver told him he was doing everything he could to avoid the accident. “But he just couldn’t move any further” Ottensmeier said. “He just couldn’t get out of the way.”

According to officials, this is the first fatality in at least two to three years in that area.

Maki is survived by his wife, Jeanne Maki. The couple resided north of the Marion Reservoir and maintained a Hillsboro address.

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