Lawrence police Monday identified a 29-year-old Michigan man as the driver who died in a single-vehicle accident early Saturday morning near the entrance to Riverfront Park in North Lawrence.
Sgt. Matt Sarna, a Lawrence police spokesman, said officers were also trying to determine if the driver was involved in a high-speed chase that began in Tonganoxie nearly six hours before the accident was discovered.
Police identified Tyler Yaroch, Midland, Mich., as the driver of the yellow 2000 Jeep Wrangler. A passerby called police at 6:15 a.m. Saturday when they noticed the driver had been ejected from the vehicle. Police said there were no other passengers in the vehicle.
Tonganoxie Deputy Chief Billy Adcox said around 12:30 a.m. an officer observed a yellow Jeep Wrangler driving through Tonganoxie south on U.S. Highway 24-40 faster than the posted speed limit. The Jeep failed to stop at a traffic light at the Kansas Highway 16 intersection and almost struck another vehicle, he said.
Sarna said investigators believe the Jeep crashed between 12:30 a.m. Saturday — which was when the Tonganoxie chase started — and when it was discovered several hours later.
During the chase, the Tonganoxie officer activated his lights and sirens and attempted to stop the vehicle.
“The officer was in pursuit with the Jeep Wrangler with speeds in excess of 100 mph southbound on U.S. 24-40,” Adcox said. “A supervisor was monitoring radio traffic and advised the officer to terminate the pursuit.”
The Tonganoxie officer stopped his pursuit east of the Lawrence Municipal Airport and returned to Tonganoxie. The officer was unable to obtain the license plate number on the Jeep.
A passerby several hours later discovered a Jeep Wrangler that had crashed near the entrance to the park — just west of where the Tonganoxie officer ended his pursuit. Lawrence officers believe the Jeep was headed west on North 1800 Road at a high rate of speed before the crash and left the road. Yaroch was thrown from the vehicle. North 1800 Road is a westbound extension of U.S. Highway 24-40.
“It is not known at this time if alcohol was a contributing factor to the accident,” Sarna said.
According to a preliminary coroner's report, Yaroch died of multiple injuries due to blunt-force trauma, and he tested positive for marijuana and amphetamine, although a blood test will take several weeks to complete.
Adcox said Leavenworth County dispatchers also advised Douglas County dispatchers a pursuit was headed into Douglas County.
Lawrence police ask anyone with information on the accident to call the department at 785-832-7650 or Douglas County Crime Stoppers at 785-843-TIPS (8477).
Several other accidents occurred in the past several days.
A Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said investigators suspect “driver inattentiveness” as a factor in an accident Saturday night north of Baldwin City that injured a Lawrence teen.
Amber Stacey, 16, was listed in fair condition Monday morning at Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., said Bob Hallinan, a hospital spokesman. Sgt. Steve Lewis, a sheriff’s spokesman, said she was hurt when she lost control of her northbound Toyota Solara around 9:30 p.m. in the 400 block of County Road 1055.
Lewis said alcohol did not contribute to the crash. Stacey was the sole occupant of the car that eventually drifted across both lanes of traffic before striking a ditch, tree and boulder.
Also at KU Hospital were three people who were injured in three accidents last Thursday. Here’s an update from Hallinan on Monday morning:
• Robert Berkoski, 67, Naples, Fla., was listed in fair condition. He was hurt in a crash on the Kansas Turnpike west of the Lecompton interchange.
• Donald Burnett, 63, Manhattan, also was listed in fair condition. He suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident Thursday on U.S. Highway 24-40 near the Douglas County-Leavenworth County line.
• Richard Vandruff, 44, Tonganoxie, was in serious condition. Vandruff was injured after a tire blew on the concrete truck he was driving west Thursday on Kansas Highway 10. The Kansas Highway Patrol closed the commuter highway for six hours Thursday evening as troopers investigated the crash.