Feb 22, 2020 2:01 AM

Update: Kansas is dropping parents of crash victims from lawsuit

Posted Feb 22, 2020 2:01 AM
Ruth S. Vazquez-Hernandez died along with her one-year-old sister -photo courtesy  Duane Harvey Funeral Directors
Ruth S. Vazquez-Hernandez died along with her one-year-old sister -photo courtesy  Duane Harvey Funeral Directors

Topeka, Kan. (AP)—Kansas has dropped the parents of two sisters killed in a crash from a lawsuit seeking to recoup $116,832 for repairs to a highway barrier damaged in the wreck.

The Kansas Department of Transportation said Thursday that “legal action to recover highway damages after accidents is routine” but that “in this case” it would remove the parents of 7-year-old Ruth Solome Vazquez-Hernandez and her 1-year-old sister, Teresa de Jesus Vazquez-Hernandez, from the case. The agency offered no explanation, but the announcement came one day after The Kansas City Star reported on the lawsuit.

A tractor-trailer slammed into a minivan driven by the girls’ mother, Angelica Hernandez-Valentin, as she slowed on Interstate 435 in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood on Feb. 18, 2018. Ruth and Teresa were killed, and Hernandez-Valentin and two of her sons suffered serious injuries. One of the boys had a leg amputated, said Scott Bethune, an attorney for the parents.

Two years later, to the day, the state sued the family.

“The anniversary of the loss of Ruth and Teresa brings back sad memories anyway. For this to be done on that date compounds their grief. But the family is happy with the decision to dismiss them from the case,” Bethune said, adding that neither he nor the family has had contact with the state.

The suit had alleged Hernandez-Valentin did not have a valid driver’s license and was negligent for not moving off the interstate when her minivan failed to reach “a reasonable speed.”

Bethune said Hernandez-Valentin was moving to the right shoulder with her hazard lights on because the minivan was loosing power. The issues with “her driver’s license had nothing to do causally with this collision,” he said.

The agency will continue to seek damages from the truck driver, William Spring, of Corning, Iowa, and the owners of the truck and trailer, Brown Truck Leasing Corp. and Greenfield Logistics Inc. The department alleges Spring was negligent for “driving too fast for conditions on the roadway” and was following too closely.

The parents were also in the process of finalizing a confidential settlement of their wrongful death claim against Spring and the owners of the tractor-trailer.

Michael Kirkham, an attorney for Spring and Greenfield, said he couldn’t comment on the case. And Timothy Wolf, an attorney for Brown, didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

Spring doesn’t have a listed phone number.

Topeka, Kan. (AP) — Two years after a crash left two sisters dead and three family members injured, the state of Kansas is suing the children's parents and other parties for the cost of repairing a highway barrier damaged in the wreck.

The state filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to recover $116,832 to fix the barrier on Interstate 435 that was damaged Feb. 18, 2018, when a truck slammed into a minivan driven by Angelica Hernandez-Valentin. Her 1- and 7-year-old daughters died in the crash and she and two of her sons were seriously injured, according to court records.

The lawsuit names Hernandez-Valentin and the father of her children, Salomon Vazquez. It also names the truck driver, William Spring, of Corning, Iowa and the owners of the truck and trailer, Brown Truck Leasing Corp. and Greenfield Logistics Inc.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said the crash occurred when the minivan slowed or stopped for an unknown reason and Spring was unable to stop in time. He hit the minivan, then crashed through a concrete barrier along the shoulder.

It is not unusual for state and local governments to file claims to recover costs from traffic crashes. The Kansas Department of Transportation contends Hernandez-Valentin did not have a valid driver's license and was negligent for not moving off the interstate when her minivan failed to reach “a reasonable speed.”

The department alleges Spring was negligent for “driving too fast for conditions on the roadway” and following too closely.

The lawsuit comes as the children's parents are about to finalize a settlement of their wrongful death claim against Spring and the owners of the tractor-trailer. The settlement was reached this month but terms were not disclosed in court documents filed in Jackson County. A hearing to finalize the agreement is scheduled for March 12.

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Feb 22, 2020 2:01 AM
KHP found 18 pounds of cocaine hidden during traffic stop
Jesus Gonzalez-Molina

TOPEKA, KAN. – A man was sentenced this week to 52 months in federal prison for smuggling 18 pounds of cocaine to Kansas, according to U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister.

Jesus Gonzalez-Molina, 30, Pomona, CA., pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. In his plea, he admitted he was driving eastbound on I-70 through Shawnee County when he was stopped by the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Troopers searched the 2007 Toyota 4Runner he was driving and found a hidden compartment containing the drugs.