5 injured in head-on collision on U.S. Highway 56; highway reopens

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical workers and law enforcement officers respond to a head-on crash Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2011 on U.S. Highway 56, west of Worden.

A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper inspect the scene of an accident that sent five people to the hospital Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 on Kansas Highway 56.

Kansas Highway Patrol troopers investigate the scene of an accident that sent two people to the hospital Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 on Kansas Highway 56.

Two Overbrook women, a Missouri woman and two Baldwin City children were injured in a head-on crash Tuesday afternoon on U.S. Highway 56 in southwestern Douglas County.

Master Trooper Scott White of the Kansas Highway Patrol said the three adults who were traveling in a minivan suffered critical injuries and were flown via separate helicopter ambulances to area hospitals. The two children were passengers in an eastbound pickup truck that was struck by the westbound minivan, White said. The children’s injuries were not as serious, and they were taken by ground ambulance to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

“For an unknown reason, the van went left of center and hit the pickup head on,” White said.

The pickup truck’s driver, Darren S. Othick, 45, of Baldwin City, was not injured.

The crash occurred at 1 p.m. in the 700 block of U.S. Highway 56, which is west of Worden. Division Chief Eve Tolefree, a Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical spokeswoman, said the three adults were extricated from the van.

Joann O’Brien, 76, of Overbrook, was the driver of the 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. She was taken to Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo. Her two passengers were Jamie Ullery, 47, of Overbrook, and Alice Beatty, 51, Independence, Mo. Ullery and Beatty were both taken to Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.

The children in the truck were Kara and Caleb Othick, ages 10 and 12.

Everyone in the crash wore their seat belts. White said the cause of the crash was still under investigation.

Both lanes of the highway reopened east of Overbrook by 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, after the highway was closed for about two hours, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.