Archive for Thursday, September 14, 2006

EHS senior injured in accident

September 14, 2006

A Eudora High School senior is recovering from injuries resulting from a weekend wreck just east of Topeka as law enforcement officials continue to investigate the accident.

Marisa Bergman, 17, was the passenger in a pickup truck driven by 19-year-old Jacob Whallon, of Olathe.

Whallon drove the truck into the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 from the Kansas Highway 4 exit and through a field Saturday evening before the truck went airborne and struck a semitrailer, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Bergman broke her jaw, collarbone and pelvis. Doctors are testing to see whether any vertebrae were fractured, family members said.

"We're just praying very hard. And we just thought it would be nice if the kids from school sent her cards because she's going to have to go through quite a few surgeries," said Rose Steffey, Bergman's grandmother.

Family members said Bergman was moved out of the intensive care unit Sunday at St. Francis Health Center in Topeka. A hospital spokeswoman said Bergman was in serious but stable condition.

"She can talk very little. Her jawbones were all crushed. Her chin's all crushed," Steffey said. "It was just extensive. If it hadn't have been for the air bag I don't believe she would be here."

The family is trying to learn more about the accident that tied up traffic in eastern Topeka on Saturday.

According to a highway patrol report, at 5:45 p.m., Whallon drove the pickup through the K-TAG lane and broke the toll gate's arm. He then exited I-70 to the north at Kansas Highway 4.

Suddenly, on K-4, Whallon made a U-turn and began driving south in the northbound lanes and later steered the truck off the road and into the grass headed back toward I-70.

When the truck reached the interstate, the vehicle then went airborne and struck a 1991 semitrailer. The collision caused the semitrailer to strike a 1998 Oldsmobile van, said Trooper Jason Leathers.

Whallon has since been released from the hospital and no one in the other vehicles was seriously injured, Leathers said.

Whallon told troopers he was driving from Kansas City to Lawrence but might have taken a wrong turn, Leathers said.

Whallon had not drunk alcohol, but troopers took a blood and urine sample from him to investigate the possible presence of other substances, Leathers said.

Troopers sent the sample to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for analysis on Monday.

A man at the Whallon residence in Olathe would not comment on Monday.

Kristin Magette, a Eudora school district spokeswoman, said Bergman was active in the high school's culinary arts program.

Steffey said Bergman is a straight A student and loves art.

Students are collecting funds to buy a stuffed animal and other gifts, and they will send a giant card, Magette said.

Bergman is the daughter of Cliff and Rachelle True, of Eudora, and Cory Bergman, of De Soto. Cards can be sent to St. Francis Health Center, 1700 S.W. Seventh St., Topeka 66606-1690.

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