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Archive for Saturday, June 6, 1992

MECHANICS SEEKS CLUES TO FIRE TRUCK ACCIDENT

June 6, 1992

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Mechanics poked, prodded and partially dismantled a Lawrence fire truck on Friday, trying to determine why its brakes failed, triggering a five-vehicle accident Thursday afternoon on Iowa near 23rd.

"The brakes didn't work, and we're trying to determine why they didn't work," said Rod Bremby, assistant city manager. Bremby met with Lawrence fire chief Jim McSwain to go over the details of the accident.

City garage superintendant Leonard Monroe said the mechanic working on the fire truck took apart portions of the 30-ton vehicle to view the brake system.

"So far we haven't found anything wrong with the brake," he said.

George Forman, a mechanical engineer and a former member of the Kansas University faculty, also was on hand Friday at the city garage, 11th and Haskell, to help with the inspection.

He would not comment on his contributions to the inspection, but said that the city attorney's office asked him to be present as the vehicle was examined.

THE CITY attorney's office will play a large role in the resolution of the incident, city clerk Ray Hummert said Friday. Usually Hummert's office handles claims, but in cases where injuries and substantial damage is involved, the city attorney's office takes over.

Hummert said his office merely will process any claims, approved by the city attorney, stemming from this accident.

According to Lawrence police reports, the fire truck was traveling south on Iowa Street shortly after 3:30 p.m. Thursday, responding to an emergency call at West Hills Apartments, 1733 W. 24th.

In a statement to police, the driver of the truck, James King, 32, said he noticed a lot of congestion at the intersection of 23rd and Iowa, especially in the southbound lane where traffic was stopped for a red light. King told officers he was driving at or below the legal speed limit of 40 mph.

KING SAID he made repeated efforts to brake, but struck a 1986 Nissan Maxima station wagon driven by Gracie Wilhelm, 24, Baldwin.

The accident sent Wilhelm's car into the back of a 1981 GMC pickup driven by Gordon Chappell, 46, 2700 Ala., and his vehicle into a 1986 Ford pickup driven by Wilton Koehler, 62, Baldwin, and finally Koehler's vehicle into the back of a 1989 Ford Bronco driven by David Heller.

None of the drivers was seriously injured, but Chappell and Wilhelm both complained of sore necks and muscles on Friday.

Koehler could not be reached for comment, but Chappell, Wilhelm and Heller all said they would like the city to reimburse them for the repairs or replacement of their vehicles. None of those drivers said they intended to sue the city at this time.

Wilhelm's car appeared to be the most heavily damaged, and she said the city is paying for a rental car that she'll drive while negotiating a settlement with the city.

None of the four firefighters in the truck was injured.

At this point it appears the 1986 Sparton LTI ladder truck sustained heavy damage only to its front bumper, Monroe said.

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