SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Two crashes claiming seven lives — all taking place at one deadly Kansas intersection about 20 miles southwest of Wichita. Some Kansans say something needs to be done about this intersection in rural Sedgwick County.
Last Friday, a mom and four of her children died there after the sheriff’s office says a grain truck ran the stop sign. The crash hit home for another Kansas man, Ray Burford. More than two decades ago, he lost his parents at that very same spot.
In an exclusive interview with KSN News, Bret Buganski sat down with Burford and takes a look at what the county is doing to make the intersection safer.
Ray Burford’s parents were both killed in a crash at the same intersection where a mother and four children lost their lives.
“We had a ring on the doorbell and our daughter was first to the door,” Buford said. “They’d come to present us with the news that our folks had passed away in a car wreck.”
Tuesday, December 24, 1996 — that is a night that changed Burford and his family forever. He had just spent Christmas Eve with his parents, Glen and Peggy Burford, going to church and celebrating two special occasions during the festive holiday season.
“We shared a gift or two, a bit ahead of Christmas — opened up a couple of gifts, of course, my dad’s birthday is on the 24th,” Burford said. “I think my mom had shown us that she could still do 10 sit-ups without any difficulty, and this and that because our daughter had some sort of ab machine or something,” he recalled.
When asked what the last thing that he said to his parents before they left, Burford said, “If we had just taken another minute or filled that coffee one more time, they’d be here today.”
On that Christmas Eve in 1996, Glen and Peggy Burford were on their way back home to Conway Springs driving south on 263rd Street. Another driver didn’t stop at the intersection of 71st Street. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the eastbound stop sign was missing at the time of the crash, and a witness reported the stop sign had been missing since December 21, 1996.
The Burfords and the driver in the other vehicle all died at the scene from the ensuing collision.
Twenty-four years later, this same site became the scene of another deadly crash. On Sept. 25, 2020, Jessica Noel and her family also drove south on 263rd Street when a driver heading east also didn’t stop at the Stop sign. All five family members died in this crash.
KSN News found out there have been eight crashes at this particular intersection in the last 10 years, including Friday’s deadly crash. However, none of the other crashes were deadly.
Sedgwick County installed the 48-inch stop signs that are currently seen at that intersection in late 1997, which was in response to the 1996 Christmas Eve deadly crash. The county also installed rumble strips as part of a program in rural intersections with larger stop signs.
When KSN’s Bret Buganski was at the intersection on Tuesday, here’s how he explained what he saw.
“If you take a look here, these are rumble strips. they’re in the westbound lanes, and it’s designed to give drivers a warning to slow down before they reach the Stop sign. But in the eastbound lanes, you have this sign, but you won’t see any rumble strips.”
This is what Bret said when he returned to the same spot on Thursday.
“Two days later, when we’re back out here at this very same spot, and now there are rumble strips.”
Sedgwick County tells KSN the rumble strips were put back in as they were inadvertently omitted in a past maintenance project. They added that no one requested them to be reinstalled, they did it as soon as possible after they realized they were not in place.
When KSN News asked Sedgwick County when workers removed them, the county responded saying they weren’t sure because it was with a contract maintenance project, and they have had a few of them since they were initially installed.
Sedgwick County says this intersection does not have a crash rate that would spur additional changes at this time. The two most recent crashes are still under investigation, and we do not know all of the circumstances that contributed to them.
Ray Burford says both of these deadly crashes are examples of why they hope something changes at the intersection.
“This is more than just a happening once, in a blue moon, these are tragic events, Burford said. “It’s very hard to sit down and analyze those things and come up with a really good reason why those things happen.”