- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) - Five people were killed in a fiery six-vehicle wreck that temporarily closed a stretch of Interstate 70 on the western edge of the Kansas City metropolitan area, authorities said.

The crash happened Tuesday afternoon when a tractor-trailer driver crested a slight hill and failed to slow for traffic that was stalled because of construction about 2 miles ahead, according to a Kansas Turnpike Authority crash report.

The westbound rig rammed a sport utility vehicle and then two cars before crashing into a stopped tractor-trailer. One of the cars, a Ford Taurus, was forced under the stopped tractor-trailer, which then rear-ended a pickup truck. Both rigs and the Taurus caught on fire. The rigs’ drivers survived, but the Taurus’ driver, Ricardo Mireles, 38, of Topeka, was killed.

The other car, a Buick LaCrosse, was forced into a guardrail, spun around and came to rest in a ditch. The driver, Sheldon Cohen, an 83-year-old retired, longtime chemistry professor at Washburn University in Topeka, and his wife, Virginia Cohen, 79, were killed. Also killed was the SUV’s driver, Teresa Butler, 61, of Urbana, Illinois, and her passenger, 63-year-old Karen Lynn Kennedy, of New Palestine, Indiana.

The crash closed the highway in both directions for about two hours just west of Bonner Springs. One of the victims wasn’t discovered until authorities were clearing the wreckage.

The man who caused the deadly pileup was taken to a hospital, said Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. Adam Winters, who didn’t know the extent of the man’s injuries. He drove for Indian Creek Express, according to the crash report. The company didn’t immediately respond to an email message from The Associated Press, and a man who answered the phone there hung up when asked about the crash.

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