Officials identify victims in fiery I-70 crash that killed 5 people

Posted at 3:45 PM, Jul 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-12 19:04:45-04

The Kansas Turnpike Authority has released the crash report identifying multiple people involved in a fiery crash that killed five yesterday.

It happened on I-70 near 174th Street in Bonner Springs, Kansas, around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday. According to the crash report, there were six vehicles involved. They included a Chevrolet Avalanche, a USXpress semi, a GMC Terrain, a Buick, a Ford Taurus and an Indian Creek Express semi.

The five people who died were:

  • Teresa J. Butler, 61, of Urbana, Illinois (Terrain)
  • Karen L. Kennedy, 63, of New Palestine, Indiana (Terrain)
  • Ricardo Mireles, 38, of Topeka, Kansas (Taurus)
  • Sheldon Cohen, 83, of Topeka, Kansas (Lacrosse)
  • Virginia Cohen, 79, of Topeka, Kansas (Lacrosse)


The semi drivers have also been identified. Kenny Ford of Houston was behind the wheel of the Indian Creek Express tractor-trailer, and Carleton McMahan was driving the USXpress truck.

Scott Shambaugh of Ashland City, Tennessee was driving the Avalanche. He and his two passengers were not injured.

In addition to the IDs, the turnpike authority released a more detailed narrative of the crash.

They said the Avalanche and USXpress semi were stopped in the outside, westbound lane of the interstate. They may have been stopped for construction that was happening about two miles ahead of them on the Eastern Terminal of the turnpike.

The Terrain, Buick and Taurus were slowing down and preparing to stop as well when the Indian Creek Express tractor-trailer crested a slight hill. For an unknown reason, the driver saw the slower traffic too late.

Brake marks show that the semi swerved into the inside lane as it tried to stop before hitting the Terrain in the outside lane. The Terrain was forced into the inside wall and rotated counter-clockwise.

The Indian Creek Express semi kept going and stuck the Lacrosse, which crashed into a guardrail.

Still moving, the tractor-trailer hit the Taurus that was stopped behind the other semi, the USXpress truck.

The Taurus was forced underneath that semi before the Indian Creek Express truck rear-ended the USXpress semi, causing it to hit the Avalanche.

A fire ignited between the Indian Creek Express semi, the USXpress semi and the Taurus.

The speed limit in this area is 75 miles per hour. The first construction zone sign was posted about half a mile before the crash, but the crash happened two miles east of the construction.

The turnpike authority said in a statement that the signage for the construction nearby meets and was based on federal guidelines. 

“We had no idea there were any cars underneath that truck because you couldn’t see anything,” said Tom Theno, who lives nearby and heard the crash. “I had never seen a wreck like that out here before, and I hope I don’t see another one.” 

“It turned into a train-type pile up. I mean, it looked like something out of a movie, just cars and pieces everywhere,” said Brian Reeves, who told 41 Action News he was a few cars behind the initial wreck. 

“In the split second it takes you to process what you saw in front of you, you get out of the car, call 911 right away and immediately the fire started on the edge of the semi, and it grew exponentially, so fast. You saw there weren’t people getting out of a couple of the cars,” said Reeves.

The conditions of the truckers are not known at this time. 

Officials said there were no hazardous materials in the semis.