SW 24th west of Anderson Road – Newton /
Wichita man killed in train wreck
Investigators believe a 64-year-old Wichita man killed Wednesday morning in a truck-train accident was talking on a radio in the seconds just prior to the crash. Harvey County Sheriff Byron Motter said Olin E. Harper, 1001 E. Macarthur, No. 89 in Wichita, was observed by train engineers talking on a truck radio seconds before his dump truck was struck broadside in the cab area. The accident occurred at 11:33 a.m. Wednesday on Southwest 24th three quarters of a mile west of Anderson Road. The 75-car train, a Burlington Northern northeast bound for Chicago from Arkansas City, slammed into the dump truck Harper was driving at approximately 50 miles an hour at an intersection marked with crossbucks (white X-shaped signs with “railroad crossing” in black lettering), the standard rural marking, Motter said. Harper’s dump truck, owned by A-Plus Trucking of Wichita, was knocked some 100 feet off the track down into a swail, where it overturned and, according to eyewitnesses, exploded twice. Harper was unable to escape the cab of the truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was discovered by emergency crews after the fire that totally engulfed the truck was extinguished. A long-distance witness to the accident at the Harvey County Sanitary Landfill, two miles west of the accident scene, said he knew immediately that the victim of the accident had been at the landfill just minutes before. “I saw an explosion,” said Tim Howell, who was operating a scraper at the landfill. “I called in on the radio (to the main landfill office) and said, ‘That truck that was just here has been hit by a train.’ ” Howell said he jumped into his truck and left the landfill in hopes of helping the victim. “When I got there, I couldn’t see a driver,” he said. “So I started screaming for the driver. I was hoping and praying he’d been thrown out.” Seconds later, the gas tanks blew again, toward the stopped train. “I knew then there wasn’t anything I could do,” Howell said. The accident was the first fatality at the intersection since 1989, when a rural Newton man, Steve Burton, was killed in a truck-train collision. (By Bill Wilson for The Newton Kansan, Newton Kansas. March 19, 1999).