Fatal Turnpike accident caused by attempted U-turn

13 NEWS has learned the crash that killed three Topeka children happened during a U-turn on the Kansas Turnpike.
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 8:41 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - 13 NEWS has learned the crash that killed three Topeka children happened during a U-turn on the Kansas Turnpike.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said Kylie Lunn, 9, Laila El Azri, 9, and Brooklyn Peery, 8, all from Topeka were killed when a van they were in was struck by a semi-tractor trailer.

Officials say the van’s driver, Amber Peery, 32, of Topeka, was southbound on I-335 near the SW 69th St. overpass when she attempted to turn through the barrier wall. KHP says the vehicle was then struck by the southbound semi.

Peery was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Gabriella Ponomarez, 9, of Topeka, also suffered suspected minor injuries, and Carrington Peery, 5, of Topeka, was taken to the hospital with suspected serious injuries.

The semi driver, Robert Hosey Russell, 70, of Huntsville, Alabama was not injured.

The accident happened just after 9 a.m. on Saturday, October 8, 2022.

Officials say all three children that died attended schools in the Auburn-Washburn District, which sent the following email to students, parents and staff later in the day on Saturday:

“On Saturday, October 8, three Auburn-Washburn elementary students passed away in an automobile accident. These students include a Jay Shideler Elementary third grader along with two Farley Elementary fourth graders. We are keeping these students and their families in our thoughts. Such a loss raises emotions and questions for our entire school community, especially our students. Our schools have crisis teams made up of professionals trained to help with the needs of students, parents, and school personnel at difficult times such as this. On Monday morning, Farley Elementary and Jay Shideler Elementary students will be notified in an age-appropriate manner about what occurred. There will be designated areas of support offered to students who need time to process, discuss, or grieve. We will have counselors and social workers available to meet with students and staff members as needed.”

Dr. Scott McWilliams, USD 437 Superintendent

Residents who live near the crash location didn’t want to go on camera, but tell 13 NEWS they frequently see people use the emergency U-turn opening in the barrier wall near the SW 69th St. overpass.

A family friend of one of the victims confirmed to 13 NEWS that the van had been headed to a Girl Scout event in Kansas City.

The Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri released a statement on Monday.

“Our hearts are broken for the girls and families of Troop 5567 from Topeka, Kansas who tragically lost three Girl Scouts in an automobile accident on Saturday as they were traveling to Girl Fest, a council-wide family and troop event at Camp Tongawood in Tonganoxie, Kansas. Our thoughts also go out to one Girl Scout with critical injuries in the hospital and the other Girl Scouts involved in the accident,” said Joy Wheeler, CEO, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri. “Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri grieves with the families, friends and loved ones of Brooklyn, Laila, and Kylie as together we comfort one another in the wake of this terrible tragedy. We are supporting the families and troop as they grieve and will honor the lives of our three Girl Scout sisters.”

As it continues to support the troop’s sisters and families, the organization said it will keep the community apprised of ways to help honor the lives of Brooklyn, Laila and Kylie and comfort the girls of Troop 5567.