Archive for Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Community rallies around injured student

15-year-old may lose leg after collision

April 5, 2006


When Steve Stemmerman walked into Billy Baker's hospital room Sunday night, the boy could barely move.

"He was barely awake. They have him pretty heavily sedated," Stemmerman said.

Now, hospital officials say the 15-year-old's condition is improving after he was struck by a trailer Saturday afternoon in North Lawrence. A large dip in the road near the intersection of North Second and Locust streets may have caused the accident.

While Lawrence Police continue preparing a report that will detail Saturday's accident, Stemmerman and other school officials have started collections to help Billy and his family during his recovery.

Stemmerman, a resource room teacher at Central Junior High School, saw the accident scene Saturday but didn't think much of it. He wouldn't find out until hours later that the trailer had struck Billy as he stood on the corner across from Johnny's Tavern with his father. But by the time Stemmerman arrived at the hospital Sunday night, he said Billy was attached to IV tubes and monitors, his eyes hardly open. The force of the accident had cracked his shin in two - a clean break that required surgery.

Billy Baker's condition is improving after the 15-year-old was struck by a trailer Saturday afternoon near the intersection of North Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence. A large dip in the road near the intersection, which the sign gives warning of, may have caused the accident.

Billy Baker's condition is improving after the 15-year-old was struck by a trailer Saturday afternoon near the intersection of North Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence. A large dip in the road near the intersection, which the sign gives warning of, may have caused the accident.

"He still may lose his leg," Stemmerman said.

But for Billy, the injury may be even more traumatic. Billy is a special education student, and although Stemmerman didn't detail the child's disability, he guessed that at first the trauma will take longer to understand.

"The initial part is going to be harder for him," he said.

Students and staff members at the school will help out any way they can. The school's Student Council members met Tuesday to discuss what they could do, and Stemmerman began taking a collection to donate to Billy's family.

Students flowed in and out of the Central Junior High office Tuesday, chatting about get-well cards they'd signed to send to Billy.

Across town, Banozhoni White was talking about Billy too. Banozhoni and Billy went to school together when Billy was at Woodlawn School, and the 11-year-old was shocked when she heard about his injuries.

She remembered walking through the halls at Woodlawn where she'd see Billy.

"He would always say 'Hi,'" Banozhoni said. "He always wanted to shake your hand."

Intersection of North Second and Locust

Now, Banozhoni and the staff at Woodlawn may try to raise funds for Billy and his family. Banozhoni talked with officials there Tuesday and said that she'll talk to a counselor today to try to set up a fund for Billy at his former school.

In the meantime, Banozhoni's mother, Venida Chenault, plans to distribute fliers in her North Lawrence neighborhood seeking donations for Billy. Both her daughter and son knew Billy, and she said the kids just wanted to do all they could to help.

"I really felt sorry for him," White said. "I just wanted to try to raise funds."

How to help

To give a donation in support of Billy Baker and his family, call Central Junior High School at 832-5400.

Staff writer Eric Weslander contributed to this story.


craigers 12 years ago

That really stinks. I would think that the driver's insurance would have to pay for the accident and damages.

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

I would also think that if KDOT cannot come up with funds to keep existing infrastructure in safe traveling conditions perhaps new highways should be on the way back burner.

Maintenance of existing resources should be high priority. If the state cannot afford to care for what is now in place why build more to further jeopardize its' ability.

Granted we have two problems with this situation:

  1. KDOT not being able to meet its' obligations of maintaining roads and highways.

  2. Apparently the ball for the trailer was an improper size which of course is the driver's responsibility.

Sue KDOT and driver for negligence.

Eric Beightel 12 years ago

The only problem with Merril's argument is that this isn't a KDOT road - it's N. 2nd which is firmly under the City's jurisidiction.

That bump has been there all of my 29 years but perhaps this will provide the impetus to have something done about it.

it's quite clear that the driver was travelling too fast if the trailer flew off the hitch, so he should be charged with some sort of traffic crime and should be liable for all medical expenses.

jayhawk72 12 years ago

I lived in north lawrence most of my life and that intersection is the worst when it comes to that dip in the road. I feel sorry for the driver because I truly believe it was an accident and the city should have to pay because North Lawrence roads are extremely neglected as far as repairs go. Maybe the city should spend less money "fixing" main streets and pay more attention to the roads that are in NEED of repair. They have been "talking" about that dip for years and I have still yet to see them do ANYTHING about it. Oh wait! thats right..they "dont have it in the budget." Thats a crock!

bankboy119 12 years ago

Actually merrill it would be the city of Lawrence's fault. Good luck with that lawsuit though. I'm sure that they will say it was the kid's fault, just like in the death over by Prairie Park.

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

According to news reports this is KDOT jurisdiction as is 23rd street.

jayhawk72 12 years ago

It doesn't matter if you are going 30 miles, 15 miles or 40 miles an hour that is a horrendous dip and most drivers are on their way out of town and want to do 35-40. The city just needs to fix the dip and stop skirting around the issue.

KSChick1 12 years ago

North 2nd street is 59 Hiway and it is under KDOT although it is a city street

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

Let's all write to our city commissioners and suggest that the City of Lawrence fix the bump to meet KDOT specs. Whether or not KDOT will reimburse's the city is not important although should seek a pay back for doing KDOT's job.">p> Mike Rundle Sue Hack Boog Highberger

lunacydetector 12 years ago

i almost thought for a second that merrill was trying to work in his anti-SLT opinion.

towniejj 12 years ago

I heard this was partially caused by the driver's negligance because his trailer hitch was too big for the "ball" on the back of his it wasn't properly attached. I also know that a lot of trailers have a secondary safety mechanism in a chain that attaches from the trailer to the car. I heard this was not used in this situation.

Does anyone know more about this?

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

Instead of building the bridge to nowhere those anxious county commissioners and KDOT should have spent money on a 15th street bridge/ramps and made sure the YSI/Soccer intersection was designed properly so as to eliminate the need for a traffic light in the middle of nowhere.

Actually LD the real estate powers that be or SLT support group are fine with a SOR route. It's just that they want two roadways however the SOR is the only real bypass which could connect to interchange 1057 and continue north to I-70. This plan would be a great help to 31st. 23rd street is beyond help.

Meanwhile I say once again sue KDOT and the driver to get the parents the financial assistance they desperately need at the moment.

Steve Jacob 12 years ago

I have no idea what people are thinking. How can this not be all (well at least 90%) the drivers fault?

And to Merrill, KDOT needs to do this and KDOT needs to do that. They can do anything we want, just have to raise taxes. And we all know that will never happen. Heck Bush got re-elected just because people like lower taxes.

MississippiFrog 12 years ago

Most likely the driver will have to pay something, or I should say his insurance company. It's just too bad that the most the boy's family will be able to get is the policy limits unless they sue and have a sympathic jury. Even if they sue, it will still take months to a year to get the ball rolling toward's trial and/or settlement. I will keep this family in my prayers. I am glad they live in such a big hearted community such as Lawrence.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 12 years ago

This intersection is a part of 59 Hiway, so it's part of KDOT.

wtchdr46 12 years ago

According to the map, that is US Highway 59. Dpoe the federal government have nothing to do with it? What do you say to the citizens of North Lawrence closing the northbound lanes of the bridge, by the cause of unsafe conditions next Saturday. If the idiots that run things cannot get started on repairs that have been asked for since 1993 before one year from now. They need something to happen to wake them up. DaDAism indeed

Kathleen Christian 12 years ago

I drive that way every day to work and slow down to just about 10 miles PH because I know how dangerous that intersection is. I found out by once traveling at normal speed and almost lost control of my car. It was and still is a(nother) accident waiting to happen. I've seen other vehicles pulling a trailer & traveling at the normal speed and have seen their trailers jump. I feel for that little guy and pray for him and his family. It shouldn't take something like this for Lawrence to act on getting something repaired.

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