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Archive for Tuesday, August 31, 1999

INVESTIGATORS PIECING TOGETHER UNCERTAINTIES IN FATAL ACCIDENT

August 31, 1999

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Authorities are trying to figure out what happened in the final moments before a pickup carrying eight young men crashed Sunday on some railroad tracks in North Lawrence.

Prosecutors are waiting for investigators' reports before deciding whether to file charges against the driver in a one-vehicle, triple-fatality crash Sunday morning in North Lawrence.

Investigators Monday continued sifting through evidence to learn why the red and white Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck Manuel Brown was driving landed on Union Pacific railroad tracks near Seventh and Maple streets, overturning at least once and ejecting six men riding in the truck bed.

Sgt. George Wheeler of the Lawrence Police Department said blood from Brown, a former Haskell Indian Nations University student, was taken for alcohol tests. Results aren't expected for at least two weeks.

Prosecutors say they're withholding judgment on whether to file charges against Brown until they receive the police reports.

"We'll be taking a serious look at the case," Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Rick Trapp said. He refused to speculate about possible charges.

Three Haskell students -- Ray "Mike" Red Elk, 24; Yancy Longhat, 20; and Albert Whitebull, 25 -- died at the scene.

Wheeler said Brown, 20, was in fair condition Monday at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Passenger Clint Wahquahboshkuk, 23, was in critical condition Monday at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Former student Kerry Jymm, 24, was in serious condition in an intensive care unit at the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

Joshua Longhat, a Haskell student whose age was not available, also was in serious condition in the ICU at KUMC. He is Yancy Longhat's brother, police said. Both Kerry Jymm and Joshua Longhat already have undergone surgery, a KUMC spokesman said.

Niel Jymm, a former Haskell student whose age was not available, was treated at the accident scene. He is Kerry Jymm's brother.

At a Monday morning news conference, Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin called the accident tragic and said his department hoped to provide some answers soon about what happened.

"I have six of our best people trying to figure that out," Olin said. "It appears to be a very straightforward accident. That bend is certainly a surprise if you've been going too fast."

Later Monday, Wheeler said investigators had not turned up new information.

Police refused to say if the accident was alcohol-related, but "a witness said they had been partying all night and were heading to a prearranged location to re-form somewhere else," Olin said.

A beer keg was found near the overturned truck.

Friends who were following the truck before it overturned onto the tracks were not chasing the eight men, the chief said.

Brown and Niel Jymm were riding in the cab of the truck, Wheeler said. The other six men were ejected from the Chevy's bed, the spokesman said. It's illegal to ride in a truck bed unequipped with passenger seats, Olin said, but it's an infraction police typically do not enforce.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.



ACCIDENT VICTIMS

The three Haskell Indian Nations University students who died in the accident Sunday in North Lawrence were Albert Whitebull, a Standing Rock Sioux from Kenel, S.D.; Yancy Longhat, Caddo and Zuni from Zuni, N.M.; and Ray "Mike" Red Elk, Kiowa and Comanche from Anadarko, Okla.

Those injured were the driver, Manuel Brown, a Navajo from Gamerco, N.M.; Kerry Jymm, a Navajo from Gallup, N.M.; Joshua Longhat, the brother of Yancy Longhat; and Clint Wahquahboshkuk, a Potawatomi from Mayetta. Niel Jymm, Kerry Jymm's brother, was treated at the scene.

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