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Five killed, four injured in crash south of Meeteetse

Three Colorado Boy Scouts, their Scout leader and a toddler were killed in a two-vehicle crash on Saturday morning south of Meeteetse.

It was the region’s deadliest crash in four and a half years.

The Woodland Park, Colo., Boy Scouts were on their way home from a stay at a North Fork Boy Scout camp when, for unknown reasons, their Honda Element crossed Wyo. 120’s centerline and slammed head-on into a northbound motor home, according to information released by the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

The crash happened just after 10 a.m., about 19 miles south of Meeteetse, the patrol said. The crash reportedly happened between the Gooseberry Creek Rest Area and Wyo. 120’s junction with Wyo. 431, which connects with Worland.

A 3-year-old passenger in the motor home died in the crash, while that vehicle’s other four passengers were injured and taken to hospitals. The driver was airlifted to St. Vincent Healthcare Hospital in Billings, while the three other passengers were taken to Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital in Thermopolis.

All four occupants in the Honda died, including one individual who was taken to Cody’s West Park Hospital. The Colorado Springs Gazette identified the deceased as Woodland Park High School students Paul Kekich, 16, Nick Naples, 17, and Alex Ragan, 17, and their troop leader, Richard Kleiner.

The Honda Element had been the second vehicle in a three-vehicle convoy taking Boy Scouts back to the Colorado Springs area from Camp Buffalo Bill; the scouts’ other vehicles were not involved in the crash.

The Highway Patrol said in a Saturday news release that it did not know where the motor home’s occupants were from, but Billings television station KULR reported the vehicle was registered in Florida. The patrol’s crash investigation team, which consists of troopers with specialized training in crash reconstruction, has been activated to help investigate the incident.

West Park Hospital sent two ambulance crews from Cody, along with a crew stationed with an ambulance in Meeteetse, said hospital spokesman Joel Hunt. Hunt said the crews responded from Cody within three minutes of getting the call of a crash involving a motor home and multiple patients.

Hunt said West Park activated its incident command as a result of the call, put its mass casualty plan into effect and went to “Code White” when the call came in. That meant calling in additional staff in a number of different areas, including managers, trauma team physicians and radiologists.

A private ambulance crew from Thermopolis also responded to the crash, Hunt said, along with personnel from the Park County and Hot Springs sheriff’s offices and the Highway Patrol.

Two ambulances from Powell Valley Healthcare traveled to Cody and stood by at West Park for a couple hours while the West Park crews were at the crash site, said Powell hospital spokesman Jim Cannon. The Powell crews ended up taking no calls while stationed in Cody, Cannon said.

Hunt said West Park’s responders did a great job following emergency procedures, responding quickly and being prepared.

“They anticipated the worst and prepared for the worst,” he said.

The crash was the Big Horn Basin’s most deadly since January 2008, when a drunk driver crossed a center line and caused a head-on crash that killed himself, his two passengers and a couple in an oncoming vehicle.

There were seven fatal crashes in the Big Horn Basin last year, resulting in seven deaths.

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