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Driver may have passed out before fatal Kansas crash

Drivers may be responsible for a motor vehicle accident, but liability can be shared when an at-fault party drives for a living. Employers are accountable for the competency of the drivers they hire. A Pittsburg company's failure to monitor a driver's record, health condition and performance might lead to blame.

Wichita police believe a for-hire driver suffered a medical episode while acting as a designated driver for four women. The female friends were a 26-year-old airman stationed at McConnell Air Force Base, a 27-year-old office manager and mother and a 23-year-old state university student. The fourth woman, a 34-year-old, was the lone survivor of a horrific crash.

The driver, employed by Triple B's Express, signaled to exit a road but never slowed below 70 or 80 mph. Investigators think the driver was incapacitated by a medical condition and passed out; two passengers then grabbed the wheel in an attempt to control the Ford Escape. The Ford swung hard to the left, missing a stopped car, but flew airborne, struck a median and caught fire after crashing into a wall.

The survivor, believed to be one of the women who tried to gain control of the car, was thrown from the vehicle and pulled away from the wreckage. Authorities said it's likely the woman lived because she unfastened her seat belt. Her companions and the 39-year-old driver were killed instantly; the injured woman was hospitalized in critical condition.

An accident investigation found no evidence of driving under the influence. None of the victims died from injuries caused by the fire. An autopsy is expected to reveal whether the driver had a sudden, debilitating medical condition.

Some drivers hide serious medical conditions to avoid license restrictions. Knowledge of a health concern may be shared with an employer. Either party or both may be liable for damages in a civil suit for knowingly endangering other people.

Source: The Wichita Eagle, "Medical condition may have led to crash that killed four" Stan Finger, Mar. 17, 2014

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