A fatal crash that blocked Chiefs game traffic on Interstate 435 Sunday afternoon started when an off-duty Kansas City police officer in a department van rear-ended another vehicle, police said.
“This is a tough one,” Kansas City police Capt. Lionel Colón said Sunday night, as he spoke about the multi-vehicle crash that left one person dead, two critically injured and the officer hospitalized with injuries that were not thought to be life-threatening.
“We hurt with you,” he said, speaking to families of the victims of the crash.
The crash happened shortly after 4 p.m. in the northbound lanes of I-435 just south of Stadium Drive.
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Colón said the police van rear-ended a vehicle and then two other vehicles were also involved in the crash.
Traffic was quickly reduced to one lane, and then was completely shut down by 5 p.m. Traffic backed up for some three miles as Kansas City police crash specialists investigated the scene.
Colón said Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith “is shaken” to hear that an officer has been involved in a fatal crash. “We all are,” Colón said.
Late Sunday night, police released more details of the crash. The police van, a blue Ford E350, came upon slow traffic that was lining up on the way to Arrowhead Stadium. The van ran into the rear of a Maroon Mitsubishi Lancer, knocking it into a white Ford Edge, which was forced into a black Chevy Suburban.
The police van hit both the Mitsubishi and the Ford Edge before coming to rest to the north of all three other vehicles in the crash.
The driver of the Mitsubishi was pronounced dead at the scene. Two passengers in the front and rear of the car were hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. No one in the Ford Edge or the Suburban were seriously injured.
The name of the person killed in the crash had not yet been released Sunday night.
There was no indication in the preliminary investigation of the scene that any of the drivers in the crash were impaired.
The off-duty officer was on the way to Arrowhead Stadium, Colón said, but it was not known if he was going to work at the game or going as a spectator.
Many police staff are on-call and will use police vehicles while off-duty so that they can quickly respond if they are called into action, he said.
The highway remained shut down for most of three hours leading up to the game, which kicked off at 7:20 p.m. at Arrowhead. The highway was fully opened about 7:30 p.m.
The crash investigation, especially since it was fatal, had to take priority, Colón said.
“Even though it was an inconvenience, I’m confident those attending the game will understand,” Colón said. “Be thankful you are getting to your destination. You may be late but others don’t have that privilege at this point.”
More details will be released as the investigation continues, he said. The Kansas City Police Department’s crash scene specialists will be investigating.
Colón asked that anyone who witnessed the crash who has not already been contacted by investigators call the police media department at 816-234-5170.