Officials assessing damage from tornado that hit Wichita, Andover

Despite extensive damage to several neighborhoods, authorities say only four people were injured in Friday night’s storm.

The Andover YMCA was heavily damaged during Friday night’s storm. Employees and members took shelter inside the building when the tornado hit. No one was injured. (Photo from Wichita Police Department)

by Tom Shine, KMUW and Kansas News Service

Wichita — Officials are continuing to assess the damage caused by a tornado Friday night that hit southeast Wichita and Andover.

Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell said Saturday that four people suffered minor injuries in the storm. He said no people remain unaccounted for.

More than 200 emergency responders from 30 agencies were continuing to search through the debris as a cautionary move.

Andover Fire Department officials say about 1,000 buildings and homes were damaged in Sedgwick and Butler counties. It said the tornado caused damage along a six-mile path.

Russell said some neighborhoods in Andover were “damaged enough that houses were completely blown down” and cited areas that suffered “very bad damage.”

Among the buildings hit was the Andover YMCA, near Kellogg and Andover Road. YMCA officials said the building “suffered significant damage” from the storm.

It said employees and members inside the building took shelter as the tornado approached. No one was injured.

The Andover YMCA remains closed until further notice.

Prairie Creek Elementary School, which is just south of the YMCA, also was damaged by the tornado. District officials planned to assess the damage Saturday.

Andover’s City Hall, near Central and Andover Road, also suffered damage.

Officials set up an emergency shelter at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Andover. Russell said no one used the shelter Friday night.

Ironically, St. Vincent was destroyed in the April 1991 tornado that struck Andover. That storm killed 21 people in Wichita and Andover.

The Kansas Department of Transportation said parts of U.S. 54-400 remain closed between 159th Street to Santa Fe Lake Road. Crews are trying to clear the road of downed power lines.

More than 15,000 people were without power after the storm Friday night. Westar said that power had been restored to all but 1,200 customers.

Russell, the fire chief, asked people to continue to avoid the area so emergency crews can complete their assessment. He said city officials will let volunteers know when they can help with the clean up.

Officials also said private drones are banned from the area. Authorities are using a plane from the Kansas Highway Patrol and drones from the Andover Police Department to survey the damage.

The United Way of the Plains is coordinating donations for a relief fund. People can donate at

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Kansas senator makes plea deal in DUI case after driving wrong direction on I-70

GOP’s Suellentrop avoids felony conviction, agrees to serve 48 hours in jail

by Tim Carpenter and Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — Sen. Gene Suellentrop entered a no contest plea to two misdemeanor charges Monday that stemmed from an incident in March in which he drove for miles in the wrong direction on Interstate 70 before being stopped by a Kansas Highway Patrol officer.

Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican who was forced out of his role as the Kansas Senate’s majority leader following his arrest, agreed to a deal that avoided conviction on a felony charge, including the pending count of eluding police. The plea agreement with prosecutors led Judge Jason Geier to find Suellentrop guilty of driving under the influence and of reckless driving.

Suellentrop acknowledged the evidence would prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. According to the KHP officer’s charging affidavit, he was driving at speeds approaching 100 mph while fleeing through Topeka, and multiple vehicles swerved to avoid head-on collisions. When he was finally stopped, he reeked of alcohol and struggled to speak.

“There are many lessons to be learned in circumstances such as these, and I can assure you I’ve learned my share,” Suellentrop told the court before sentencing. “I take full responsibility for my actions, and I apologize for my actions. You will not see me in this court or any other court of law on any similar infractions whatsoever.”

Suellentrop is required by state law to serve 48 hours in the Shawnee County Jail. His incarceration is set to begin at noon Nov. 18.

The judge suspended a six-month sentence for the DUI conviction and 90 days for reckless driving and ordered Suellentrop to serve one year of probation. Suellentrop also has to participate in eight therapy sessions and take a substance abuse class. Eventually, he will be eligible to have the convictions expunged from his record, the judge said.

Although the judge has the authority to reject the terms of a plea deal, Geier said it was the court’s policy to accept any agreement reached between the prosecutor’s office and a defense attorney.

“I know this case has garnered a lot of attention — media attention and attention from the public,” Geier said. “I’m not allowed ethically to consider any of those outside influences.”

After taken into custody March 16, Suellentrop was verbally abusive to law enforcement officers attempting to test his blood alcohol level. He called the arresting officer a “donut boy,” the officer wrote in his report. Suellentrop bragged that he could beat the officer in a fight because he played sports competitively in high school.”

He refused to voluntarily take a breath test, and a search warrant had to be obtained to compel the senator to give a blood sample for testing. That produced a reading of 0.17%, far above the legal limit of 0.08% in Kansas to legally operate a vehicle.

Suellentrop’s attorney, Tom Lemon, told the court he had produced a transcript from video of Suellentrop’s arrest. The transcript doesn’t include “salacious” language that got people’s attention. The attorney didn’t specify which words he was referring to.

“He was, frankly, what I would expect for a 69-year-old intoxicated man dealing with a younger trooper,” Lemon said.

Lemon said his client had drank too much and wasn’t aware he was being followed by police.

“As he stands here in front of you, he’s a 69-year-old man who doesn’t have any criminal history,” Lemon said. “I mean, he’s a parent, he’s a husband, he’s a father, he’s a grandfather, he’s a business owner. All other aspects of his life are in good shape. But it was a very, very, bad mistake that he made.”

“I say all these things not as an excuse or to divert anything,” the attorney continued, “but for mitigation purposes, judge. Because of the place that he holds, he’s not down the hall in the DUI docket today with every other DUI case.”

Wichita residents Jane Byrnes and Michael McCortle attended the hearing and were disappointed to see Suellentrop evade felony conviction.

“A felony is considerably different than this little tap on the arm,” Byrnes said.

McCortle, a constituent of the senator, said he deserves better representation.

“We were hoping to witness equal justice here today, what anybody else would have gotten,” McCortle said.

Kansas Reflector stories,, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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Father Emil Kapaun laid to rest in his native Kansas, over 70 years after death

by Tom Shine, Kansas News Service, KMUW

Wichita – Services were held Wednesday in Wichita for Father Emil Kapaun, who died more than 70 years ago in a North Korean prisoner of war camp.

A funeral Mass for Father Emil Kapaun was held Wednesday, more than 70 years after he died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp.

Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on the battlefield during the Korean War. He also is being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.

Officials from the church and military were in attendance at Wednesday’s Mass at Hartman Arena in Park City. The service was followed by a procession in downtown Wichita, where Kapaun’s remains were taken by horse-drawn caisson to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Members of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, Kapaun’s former unit, carried the remains into the cathedral. The remains will be interred in a crypt installed earlier this month.

Kapaun’s remains returned to Kansas on Saturday from Honolulu, where he was buried as an unknown soldier shortly after the Korean War ended.

Among those accompanying Kapaun’s remains was his niece, Air Force Maj. Christina Roberts.

His remains were taken to his hometown of Pilsen for viewing and a vigil over the weekend. They were returned to Wichita for a funeral vigil Tuesday night at Hartman Arena.

This is the second Mass held to honor Kapaun since he died.

A memorial Mass was held for him in July 1953 at the Cathedral. But his casket, draped by an American flag, was empty.

Wichita Bishop Carl Kemme said Wednesday’s events served two purposes.

“Not only to kind of shine a spotlight on his heroic witness but also to give him the funeral rites and burial that he certainly deserves,” Kemme said.

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita broadcast the funeral Mass through EWTN, Catholic TV and the diocese’s YouTube channel.

Several Wichita downtown streets were closed.

Call to service

Kapaun was born in 1916 in Pilsen, a small farming community in Marion County, about 70 miles northeast of Wichita. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1940 at what is now Newman University. A mural honoring Kapaun adorns the school’s chapel.

He served as a priest in the parish he grew up in, St. John Nepomucene.

He also was assigned as an auxiliary chaplain at the Army airbase in Herington, where he found he enjoyed working with enlisted men.

He joined the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps during World War II, serving in Burma and India in the closing days of the conflict.

After the war, he earned his master’s degree in education from American University before becoming the parish priest in Timken, a small town in Rush County.

Bishop Mark Carroll allowed him to enlist in the Chaplain Corps in 1948.

Kapaun was stationed in Japan with the 1st Cavalry Division, which was among the first troops to land in Korea when the Korean War broke out in June 1950.

The Korean War

Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Unsan on Nov. 1-2, 1950. According to his medal citation, “Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no man’s land.”

His nephew, Ray Kapaun, accepted the medal from President Barack Obama in 2013.

When American forces pulled back from Unsan, Kapaun stayed behind to care for the wounded soldiers, even though he knew he would be taken as a prisoner.

After his capture and imprisonment, he stole food to help feed his fellow POWs. He tended to the sick and washed the clothes of prisoners too weak to do so. He also provided spiritual comfort during a brutally cold winter that saw nearly half the prisoners die.

Kemme says Kapaun served all of the prisoners, regardless of their faith.

“He didn’t ask them whether they were Catholic,” Kemme said. “He didn’t ask them any questions.

“He just saw a human being, and he did whatever he could, in those dire circumstances, to help them in their dignity, to help them be strong in the midst of such a challenging experience.

“That human love is stronger than death.”

Possible sainthood

Kapaun’s actions in the POW camp led the Vatican to name him a Servant of God in 1993, the first step in the long process to sainthood.

Vatican officials are expected to name Kapaun as venerable, the next step in the journey to sainthood. That step has been delayed because the pandemic halted most activities at the Vatican over the past year.

He would become just the fourth American-born saint if he is canonized.

Kapaun died in May 1951 after falling ill at the POW camp. He was 35.

Kapaun was buried in a shallow grave, and the location of his remains remained a mystery for nearly 70 years.

Shortly after the Korean War ended in 1953, nearly 900 sets of unidentified remains were returned from North Korea. They were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, known as the “Punchbowl.”

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, maintains a laboratory at the Punchbowl where it helps identify remains. In 2019, it began working through the unidentified remains from Korea.

Earlier this year, defense officials said Kapaun’s remains were identified using dental records and DNA provided by Eugene Kapaun, Father Kapaun’s brother and Ray Kapaun’s father.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to
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