Willie Wilson usually avoided Interstate 435 when returning home to south Kansas City from his job in Olathe, but for some reason he chose the highway on Monday afternoon.
The 54-year-old man, who goes by Darryl, has been unable to tell anyone why as he lies sedated in critical condition at Research Medical Center after suffering horrific burns in the chain-reaction crash that destroyed five vehicles and shut the freeway down.
His loving family has been with him every day.
“Outstanding,” his father, Willie Wilson, said Thursday when asked to summarize his son.
Coincidentally, the elder Wilson had driven that stretch of I-435, which is in the midst of a massive repaving project, about two hours before the crash coming home to Grandview after an errand in Kansas.
“Traffic was bad,” he said. “People were acting crazy. Fifty-five (mph) it’s supposed to be and they were doing 70, zig-zagging in and out. I said something is going to happen out there.”
Darryl Wilson’s older brother, Mark Wilson, learned what happened when he returned to his Grandview home about 11 p.m. after a league pool game to find police officers at his house.
“It was a very, very, very long Monday night,” he said. “I’ll never forget it.”
Overland Park police are continuing to investigate the cause of the crash. Wilson was aided at the scene by volunteer rescuers who carried him away from the flames. One of those rescuers, Mark Read of Overland Park, said Wilson was engulfed in flames.
Read went to Research Medical Center on Thursday to meet Wilson’s family members, who have set up a GoFundMe page to address medical bills.
“Our dear friend Willie is looking at some 20 surgeries and rehabilitation therapies,” the site says. “Your financial contribution is critical to providing the intensive care that he will require.”
Darryl Wilson has been a computer technician for the Johnson County government for 17 years. His father said he was self-taught.
Family members spoke Thursday of Wilson, subconsciously using the past tense.
“He enjoyed life,” Mark Wilson said. “He was a family-oriented man. He loved his family. He loved his nephew. He just loved doing things for people.”
Darryl Wilson never married and does not have children, but was very involved in his extended family.
“When we had functions at the house he was always there,” Mark Wilson said. “If somebody was sick he’d go check on them.”
He is particularly attentive of his mother, Wilma Wilson.
“I’d be working around the house and he’d tell me to sit down,” she said. If she was sick and dozing off, “you wake up and there he is standing there looking concerned.”
“He was just a good person all the way around,” she said. “Just a wonderful son to me.”