The driver of a pickup truck hauling scrap metal told a Douglas County Sheriff’s detective he didn’t know anything had fallen from his trailer last week or that it had struck and killed a woman on the South Lawrence Trafficway west of Lawrence.
Cindy Burnett, 47, Lyndon, died after she was struck by a piece of metal that pierced the windshield of the vehicle she was riding in with her husband, Jeff Burnett, about noon May 31 just north of the Kansas Highway 10 bridge over Clinton Parkway.
Immediately after the accident, deputies asked for the public’s help and were searching for the driver of the pickup truck hauling the trailer. The sheriff’s office through an accident report provided to the Journal-World Tuesday identified the driver of the other vehicle as 20-year-old Nicholas Rockhold of Baldwin City.
The report also includes some new details about accident:
• The blue pickup truck — owned by Jayhawk Excavating of rural Baldwin City, according to the report — Rockhold was driving was headed west. He later turned onto U.S. Highway 40 and eventually took several items from his trailer to a recycling center in Topeka. Initially sheriff’s investigators believed the metal fell from a truck that was headed east on the SLT or the opposite direction of Burnett’s Dodge pickup truck.
• Sheriff’s Detective Jay Armbrister wrote in his report Rockhold said all items on his trailer were chained down and that he stopped two separate times to make sure the load hadn’t shifted and the chains securing it had not loosened.
“When we described the area in which this crash occurred, Rockhold thought it might have been possible that an item could have come out of a container when he hit the bumps where the pavement meets the bridge on K-10 over the top of Clinton Parkway,” Armbrister wrote. “He said that there are three ‘really bad bumps’ in that area.”
• The detective also said Rockhold became emotional when officers told him a piece of scrap metal had struck and killed the passenger of a vehicle following him.
• Investigators determined another westbound car was traveling between the truck Rockhold was driving and Burnett’s pickup truck at the time of the accident. A passenger in the middle vehicle, Karen Mattox of Topeka, told investigators she watched an object come out of the trailer as the truck hit a bump going over the bridge over Clinton Parkway.
• She said the object apparently fell into the eastbound lane and struck a small maroon eastbound car, which sheriff’s officials have not located, according to the report. The object flew over the top of the Mattox’s car, and her husband John Mattox said he then looked into his rearview mirror and saw a white pickup truck — determined to be the Burnetts’ truck — pull over on the side of the road.
• Sheriff’s Sgt. Lyle Hagenbuch described the metal object found in the cab of Burnett’s pickup truck as a tooth from the bucket of a front-end loader used to dig at construction sites.
Sgt. Steve Lewis, a sheriff’s spokesman, said Tuesday no arrests had been made and no citations had been issued in connection with the accident. Lewis said information from the investigation would likely be forwarded to the district attorney’s office to determine if any charges might be filed.