The driver of a semi truck involved in a fatal fiery crash on Interstate 435 last month was following other traffic too closely and was issued a citation for “failing to control speed,” according to the Overland Park police report on the incident.
Antonio DiFranco of Clearwater, Fla., did not stop when traffic in front of his truck got backed up in a construction zone in the eastbound lanes near the junction with U.S. 69. The chain reaction crash left four vehicles destroyed by fire.
Reached by phone Monday, DiFranco had no comment and hung up on a reporter.
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Wilson’s father, also named Willie Wilson, declined to comment Monday saying he is scheduled to meet with the family’s attorney on Wednesday. The family is working with Brad Bradshaw, whose website says his specialties include damage awards involving tractor trailor trucks.
The July 17 crash occurred about 5:20 p.m., during rush hour, in a single, narrow lane that was blocked on both sides by concrete Jersey barriers.
The man who died was engulfed in flames when his Isuzu was struck in the rear by DiFranco’s truck. The Trooper came to rest facing west.
DiFranco’s truck continued forward and struck the concrete barriers before coming to a stop alongside an automobile transport truck. Flames from DiFranco’s truck spread to the transport truck. Three Dodge Ram 3500 trucks on the transport were also destroyed by fire.
A vehicle in front of the transport truck was bumped from behind but was not seriously damaged. A passenger vehicle behind DiFranco’s truck came to rest beside Wilson’s vehicle and also caught fire. The Olathe woman who was driving that vehicle escaped without injury, police said.
Joshua Luchsinger of Eudora, Kan., was a member of the highway construction crew that was just about to quit for the day when he heard the accident and saw the flames about 500 feet away. He and a co-worker jumped in a truck and sped to the site.
“When I got there the guy, I think it’s the guy that got cited, he fell out the passenger side of the truck and he was in shock and he acted like he was hurt,’ Luchsinger said Monday. “I put him on my back and carried him on my shoulders and put him on the back of the truck and then backed the truck away from the fire.”
Luchshinger himself was burned over 40 percent of his body in a traffic accident in 2002. He said he instinctively rushed to the scene of this accident to help people that might be hurt.
“If you thought about it you could probably talk yourself out of it,” he said in retrospect.
The wreck closed the busy interstate until early the next day.
Wilson was a computer technician for the Johnson County government for 17 years. At the time of the crash he was headed home on a route he usually avoided.