A Texas couple on their way to Minnesota was killed in a vehicle accident that occurred on I-135 just outside Wellington.
The accident happened at around 1 p.m. May 1 on the Kansas Turnpike near Milepost 10., northbound. The driver of a semi truck was experiencing mechanical issues and attempting to get onto the right shoulder when a pickup struck the back of the semi's trailer, according to a report from the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Both occupants of the pickup were dead at the scene. The driver of the semi was uninjured, a press release from Wellington Fire/EMS reported.
The couple killed in the accident - Darrel and Michelle Thelen - of Mission, Texas, were in their 70s,. They were heading toward Minnesota as they have done annually for the past 18 years, their niece, Susan Jenn Robrecht, of Blaine, Minnesota, said. The couple were Minnesota natives.
The Thelens had to be extricated, using Fire/EMS hydraulic equipment. Their cat, Honey, perished in the accident. Another cat, Simon, was uninjured, but ran away. Animal control later found the cat, traumatized and hiding in a tree. Simon was seen by a veterinarian and is now with the Thelen's granddaughter, Nicole Deragon, who lives in Valley Center.
KHP contacted autorities in other states who contacted the Thelen's children - Jeff Thelen, John Thelen, Debbie Thelen and Kim Tyson. The couple also leave behind several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Agencies working the accident were Wellington Fire/EMS, KHP, Kansas turnpike maintenance staff, Wellington Police and Animal Control.