- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a culvert where a 21-year-old Texan died after losing control of his car during flooding on Interstate 35 needs to be enlarged.

Zachary Clark, of Keller, Texas, was headed north last week when his blue Mustang hydroplaned, went off the road and entered an area of rapidly moving floodwater, according to a summary of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s investigation released Thursday by the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

The Mustang floated for several minutes while being carried by the water about 150 feet to the culvert, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1GpZZHb ) reported. The rushing floodwater then pulled the vehicle, and Clark, through the culvert.

The summary report said the vehicle was recovered around 105 feet west of the culvert outlet and 115 feet south of it. Clark’s body was discovered around 25 feet southwest of the vehicle. A full report by the highway patrol is expected to be available next week.

Turnpike authority CEO Steve Hewitt said that plans already were underway to replace the culverts, which channel water under the roadway.

A permitting process for the project began around six months ago. Hewitt said that design plans should help drainage in the area during large storms and runoff issues.

The “very large, challenging” project will go out to bid later this year, and it will entail replacing the existing culverts with larger ones. Hewitt said that construction should begin in spring 2016 and finish by that year’s end.

“I’m not sure even with the fact that we’re going to add additional, larger culverts in this area can we prevent every single accident out there, but we’re going to do our part,” he said.

In the past decade, the turnpike authority has reviewed drainage areas along the roadway since the Labor Day weekend flood in 2003 that pushed several vehicles off the road, killing six people. A water level monitoring system was installed and plans to replace the culverts were a result of the reviews.

Hewitt said that digital message boards that display travel alerts will be added to the road.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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