Sara and Trenton are pictured with their daughter.
As I write this blog, my family and I have just celebrated
our beautiful baby girl’s first birthday. She is the sweetest little girl and
can light up any room with her smile. She has blessed our family in more ways
than I can easily explain. As I experience these special moments with my
family, I feel so blessed to be alive. This story could have been so much
different if my husband and I had not been wearing our seat belts four years
In July of 2014, my husband and I were traveling to the
lake in our four-door sedan. We were looking forward to a weekend with family.
However, we never made it to our destination. At an intersection on the
highway, my husband and I were stopped at a stoplight. We heard tires squeal
behind us and saw a black SUV moving to get out of their stopped position from
behind us. As we were sidetracked watching this SUV, we were rear ended by a
tow truck traveling at highway speeds. Neither of us saw it coming.
Our car was pushed over 150 feet through the intersection
and the frame of our vehicle was inches from our heads. We both lost
consciousness, endured numerous cuts and bruises, experienced terrible whiplash
and concussions, and had severely sore muscles. We were taken by life flight to the
nearest hospital while the driver of the tow truck walked away from the
After nearly one year of vestibular rehab and physical
therapy, we were able to settle into our new normal. Even four years later, we
still have certain struggles that we deal with daily. These include short-term
memory problems, aches/pains and emotional anxiety particularly while driving.
However, we feel blessed to be alive. The driver of the tow truck stated he had
been distracted while driving. He was fatigued and adjusting his air
conditioner when he realized he was unable to stop his vehicle at the
To all drivers, we urge you to pay attention while you are
driving. No text or distraction is worth causing an accident and potentially taking
yours or someone else’s life. To everyone, we urge you to wear your seat belt.
Our seat belts prevented further injury that July day and we are so thankful we
took those extra couple of seconds to buckle up! Had we not done so, we may not
be here celebrating our baby girl’s first birthday.
Sara Fairbank is an Assistant
Controller for a venture capitalist firm and Trenton Fairbank is a
former engineer. The couple currently lives in Cimarron.
It was in the early morning hours on Oct. 15, 2000, and the
telephone rang at our house in Topeka. My parents were visiting, and we had
celebrated my youngest daughter’s 10th birthday the day before.I answered the phone and heard the voice of my brother Jim.
I don’t remember a lot after that. Apparently, I screamed
because the next thing I knew my parents and my daughters were standing in our
bedroom. My husband had to tell my parents that their youngest son, David, had
been killed in a car wreck.He was 36.
The next few hours were absolute chaos. As the oldest of my
parents’ children, I was the “fixer” and this was something I couldn’t fix. I
grew up in Blue Rapids and all I could think about was how to get everyone back
home because my other brother needed us.
So, what happened?My brother worked for the railroad and was on the road during the week.
He was divorced and week-ends at home were spent thoroughly enjoying himself
with his friends, and alcohol was always involved. And that is how my youngest
brother became a drunk driving statistic.
He and two friends were out driving around in the country;
it’s what many people do in small towns when there’s nothing else to do. He
apparently was driving too fast, hit a “washboard” on the dirt road and rolled
his truck. His blood alcohol level was .20. He and one of his friends were
trapped in the vehicle; the other was able to get out and run for help.
Thankfully the passengers both survived, but my brother died at the scene. He
was drunk, he didn’t have on a seat belt and the driver’s side window was down
… he didn’t stand a chance.
There is nothing that can prepare you for a phone call like
the one I received that morning. It was terrifying. There is also nothing as
horrible as watching your parents navigate through their grief of losing their
youngest child. My brother was loud and obnoxious and loving and loyal and
goofy and athletic and protective …. we miss him horribly.
If nothing else, I hope my story has made you think twice
about getting behind the wheel of your vehicle and driving after you’ve had a
drink (or two), or getting in a vehicle with someone who has been drinking. Don’t
become another statistic on a piece of paper …. you are much more important
Weber is a Program Consultant with the Kansas Department of Transportation in
June 30, 2018, changed
my life. I just finished with my cheerleading car wash and eating lunch with my
boyfriend. I left Meade, which is my hometown, to go to Horsethief Reservoir to
go tubing with my family. I never made it.
Like many teens and
adults, I was on my cell phone while driving. Around 2:30 p.m., I was three
miles south of Cimarron when I was snapchatting my friend that I was about to
see the lake. I was wearing my seat belt, but not correctly. A combine was
parked on county road R and a milk truck was waiting northbound on Highway 23
to turn onto road R but there was a car southbound on Highway 23 so he couldn’t
turn. I didn’t look up in time and I ran right into the back of the semi.
My parents had both
tried to call me and at 2:56 p.m. My Dad texted me telling me to answer my
Not even two minutes
later my parents got a phone call that absolutely no parent wants. “Mr. Wondra,
this is Gray County Sheriff's office, your daughter has been in an accident.”
All my Dad asked was if
they were taking me to Dodge City. They told him yes and he hung up the phone.
He told everyone I was in a crash and my parents raced to Dodge City.
My Mom asked my Dad on
the way if I was okay and my Dad said, “I don’t know, I didn’t ask.” My Dad
called my brother, who is a Meade City Police Officer, and asked him to call a
Gray County Officer to see what happened. They told them that I hit a semi
going 70 mph.
I was taken by ambulance
from Cimarron to Dodge City. My family met me in Dodge City before the life
flight took me to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, due to my injuries. My best
friend and her family were in Wichita and waited for me to land (thank you
Bachman’s) while my parents drove the three hours to Wesley.
I got into the trauma
center and I had to undergo more testing. I had a large cut to the right side
of my head that took 23 stitches on the outside and so many on the inside that
the trauma PA stopped counting. I also had one running stitch in my arm and six
in between my big toe and second toe from wearing flip flops. I also had
slightly collapsed lungs, a lacerated spleen, a fractured pelvis and broken two
toes. The semi driver declined medical attention at the scene. The trailer was damaged,
and my parents’ vehicle was destroyed.
June 30 changed my life.
It has taken some time to recover from my injuries. I’ve missed the start of my
senior year of sports, but I am alive. You never think it’s going to happen to
you until it does.
Don’t text and drive -
no call, text, email or snapchat is worth your life. Pull over! Your life and
the lives around you depend on it.
Shiane Wondra is a senior at
Meade High School in Meade.
Approximately 125 people gathered in Kansas City for the
second Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force yesterday, including
legislators, industry leaders, local government representatives, and
Kansas is Beachfront Property – Since the
beginning of T-WORKS, we’ve emphasized the importance of our state’s central
location as a natural advantage in logistics markets. Within one day and 5
miles of the task force meeting, Overstock.com announced it is filling a distribution
center in the Turner district and will employee 100 people. Our geographic
advantage is vital for business, as more and more companies move distribution
centers to Kansas, and transportation infrastructure will be a key component of
future economic development.
Business supports transportation investments– Joe Reardon, CEO, Greater Kansas City Chamber
of Commerce addressed the Task Force on behalf of businesses in Kansas City,
telling the Task Force nothing affects economic opportunity and quality of life
more than transportation.His briefing
emphasized the vital role transportation plays in the state and regional
economy and he told the Task Force the Kansas City business community supports
funding for transportation.
Opportunities and Impacts. KDOT presented
information on demographic and economic trends along with information on
aviation, transit and bike/pedestrian modes. Even as Kansas becomes more urban,
rural residents depend on quality transportation options to access specialized
and urgent care that may be miles from their homes. As the state’s population
continues to age and technology like automated and connected vehicles continues
to develop, how to adapt the state’s infrastructure and programs must be
considered. Whether it’s a potential increase in demand for transit, the need
for improved signs and pavement markings or new revenue sources, our
transportation system and programs will need to adapt in the future.
Local Testimony Highlights Importance of Transportation
Options. The Task Force heard about many ways that transportation is
important to Kansans:regional transit
agencies help Kansans get to work on time and to medical appointments, a
private citizen talked about the importance of improving the safety of an
intersection to reduce traffic collisions, and bike and pedestrian advocates outlined
the need for additional funding to increase safety and infrastructure
availability for a mode that is seeing increased use around the state. Other
stakeholders shared the importance of improving transportation infrastructure
to drive economic growth.
The next meetingwill
be at Pittsburg State University on Sept. 20. Topics include projected
transportation needs and funding and financing approaches in Kansas. The Task
Force will also look at system conditions and the approach to funding and
finance in other states.
The public is encouraged to attend a meeting and provide
public testimony about why transportation is important to you, what’s working
well and what could be improved.
Future meetings will discuss transportation modes in more
Chris Fisher, center, with his brother, Nick, left, and their
father, Chris Sr.
By Chris Fisher
One day after his 60th birthday, my father was
killed in a car accident that he would have walked away from...had he been
wearing a seat belt.
It was Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.I had been off work long enough to eat lunch
and was getting ready for a dental appointment when my mother’s name came up on
my phone’s caller ID.
That was 1:33 p.m.
Initially, there was no voice on the other
end, just the sound of her gasping for air and sobbing.
“Christopher, two state troopers just showed
up to the house, they said your dad got killed in a car accident this morning….
Christopher, your dad is gone.”
In a matter of seconds, I went from dreading the dentist to wondering how life will ever go on without my dad.
It felt like somebody punched me in the gut as
hard as they could, yet I felt no pain.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Mr. Fisher,” the
trooper said after he took the phone from my mom.I could still hear her in the background as
he tried to explain what happened. “For some reason, your father veered off the
road, overcorrected and rolled his truck. He was ejected and, unfortunately,
died from his injuries at the hospital around 12:30 this afternoon. Again, I’m
so sorry for your loss.”
My mind was racing a million miles an hour
while my car felt like it was barely crawling as I headed to the farm. Once I
arrived I walked inside the house and saw my mother in the corner of the living
room sitting in a chair nobody ever used, holding her head in her hands, slowly
rocking back and forth...crushed beyond belief.Right then and there the complete numbness I
felt in the hour drive instantly turned into overwhelming sadness and
grief.I broke down as I started to sit
on the floor by her feet.
Everywhere I looked there were signs that he
was just there, because, of course he was just there.Alive and well just hours before.
His lunch pail sat next to the door leading to
the garage, with a Gatorade and package of crackers sitting inside. His glasses
were sitting on top of the newspaper on the table next to his favorite spot to
read and nap. His jacket rested on the back of one of the chairs at the kitchen
table. The big, beautiful house he worked so hard to build was the emptiest it
has ever felt, knowing that he would never be coming back.
My dad owned his own masonry business, and
that particular day he set out to deliver a load of sand to a job he had been
working on the past several weeks. The crash happened on a route he was very
familiar with, in a truck he had driven for more than 10 years. He was less
than five minutes away from the jobsite.
A day later, my brother and I drove past the
scene of the accident. Signs of the crash were just as the trooper described.
We saw the tire tracks leave the road to the
left, then leave the road to the right and then skid marks, several dents in
the pavement leading up to a large patch of sand and broken glass too thin for
anyone to remove with a broom and dust pan.
The cab of the truck was beat up, but intact.
Traffic continued to zip by as if nothing had
First responders and doctors in the emergency
room worked on my dad for almost two hours before realizing they could do no
more. Cause of death: blunt force trauma to the head.
Should he have somehow survived, it wouldn’t
have been a life he would have wanted to live.
His mangled Ford F-550 stuck out like a sore
thumb as we drove up to the salvage yard to collect any of his belongings that
“How’s he doing?” asked a man who emerged from
a back office.He had apparently
overheard my conversation with the woman behind the counter.
“He’s dead,” I answered.
A look of shock and embarrassment came over
his face as the room instantly fell silent.
“He’s dead?” the man quietly repeated.
At the time, I had no idea why he would assume
whoever was riding in that truck made it out alive, but it became painfully
obvious when I got an up-close look at the wreckage for myself.
The cab was beat up, but still completely
intact. Both doors still opened and shut with little effort.Broken glass, loose change, old receipts,
sandwich wrappers, various small tools and several discarded medical wrappers
and supplies discarded by paramedics littered the floorboards.
We also found his cell phone, and the coat he
was wearing at the time of the crash, which was completely drenched in
While I already knew his lack of a seat belt
was the difference between life and death in this accident, seeing how intact
the cab of that truck was multiplied the pain of losing my father a thousand
It was a crash he could have survived 100 out
of 100 times had he just been buckled up - I have absolutely no doubt about
He wouldn’t have even had to crawl out the
window.He could have just opened the
door and brushed off the dust.
But, that wasn’t the case.
Instead of returning to work to write news for
WIBW, I had to write my dad’s obituary and help plan his funeral.
For some reason, nothing anyone could say or
do would get this man to wear his seat belt.My brother and I both survived crashes in our teenage years that could
have easily paralyzed or killed the both of us had we not been safely strapped
I would share with him some of the tragedies
we would cover at the station and how simply a life could have been saved if
and only if that person would have been wearing their seat belt.
We talked about the myths of wearing a seat
belt. How they, in fact, do not cut you in half when you’re in a crash, and
they are much more reliable now than they were back then.
For some reason, none of that resonated.
Clearly, old habits are hard to break. For whatever reason, he just wouldn’t do
it… and here we are.
While I will always respect, admire and miss
my dad, I also will always wonder why he could never see the importance of
wearing a seat belt.
Fisher is an Anchor/Reporter at WIBW-TV in Topeka.