A 65-year-old former state representative suffered several broken bones but was expected to recover after the all-terrain vehicle he was driving collided with a car Thursday morning on a county road in western Douglas County.
John Solbach, a retired lawmaker and Lawrence attorney, was driving a Kawasaki Mule ATV west on Stull Road about 9 a.m., less than a mile east of Stull Cemetery, said Lt. Steve Lewis, a Douglas County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
The retired lawmaker was on his way to check on some of his cows in a nearby field when he entered the eastbound lane to make a left turn, Lewis said. A 1999 Ford Escort crested the hill traveling east and struck the ATV at highway speed, ejecting Solbach from his vehicle into a ditch. He was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident and was critically injured.
Air transportation was not available because of weather conditions, and Solbach was transported by ambulance to Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka. He was moved to Kansas University Hospital later on Thursday, and hospital staff could not be reached to provide his condition.
Solbach suffered several broken bones but was alert Thursday afternoon, said his wife, Pat. He will be at the hospital for some time, being treated for a broken hip, pelvis, clavicle, leg and arm. Even so, she said, he asked nurses on Thursday afternoon if he would be able to make it to a May 6 court hearing for his law practice.
"That's just how John is," Pat Solbach said. "He's right on top of things, and we're thankful for that."
Both the ATV and the car were severely damaged. The driver of the Ford Escort, Robert D. Warren Jr., 39, Lawrence, did not appear to have suffered serious injuries and declined medical attention, Lewis said. A passenger, Lindsey K. Scott, 33, Lawrence, suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and was transported to Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Both occupants of the car were wearing seat belts.
Solbach had expressed concerns about traffic and speeding on Stull Road more than a decade ago, when the county smoothed and repaved the road, which passes by his family's home and farm. Three people had been killed in accidents within a half mile of his house, and his family had lost several dogs and a cat to accidents caused in part by speeding drivers.
"It's a dangerous piece of road," he said then.
He welcomed the improvements but said he feared they might actually lead to heavier, faster traffic.
In the years since, Solbach has been known to drive all over that area in his ATV, acquaintances said. A Democrat representing Lawrence and western Douglas County for 14 years, he retired from the Legislature in 1992 to spend more time with his family and his law practice. He had been chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and served on the House Appropriations Committee for a decade. In 1998, he served on the state's ethics panel, the Kansas Commission on Governmental Standards and Conduct.