LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Two crashes occurred less than 24 hours and a half-mile apart on Highway 291 in Lee’s Summit before the weekend snowfall.
The first killed 23-year-old UMKC senior Brian Dieckman. The other seriously injured 17-year-old Lee’s Summit West senior Alijah Smith. Both were T-bone collisions at intersections on the highway.
Highway 291 is a 55 mph roadway in an area surrounded by churches, warehouses and nearby neighborhoods south of Lee’s Summit High and the city’s commercial area.
Alijah Smith had just taken his ACT college aptitude test Saturday when he headed down Scherer Road to cross 291. Now he’s in the hospital.
One of the same police officers who worked Friday’s fatal motorcycle crash would visit Smith’s family at Centerpoint Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
“He could barely hold back the tears. It wasn’t about my son. It was that he’s had to go through this so many times,” Keith Smith said about the police officer.
There have been 38 crashes at the three intersections: Persels Road, 16th Street and Scherer Road on 291 Highway so far this year. In that half-mile stretch, only Persels has a light.
“When you have all these fatalities and all these crashes, the city needs to stop and do something, they need to re-evaluate that intersection,” said Michelle Smith, Alijah’s Aunt.
“This isn’t something I want to be doing out here talking to you. I want to be in there with my son, but if it prevents the next family from having to endure what we are enduring right now, that’s why I’m out here,” Keith Smith said outside the hospital.
After studying crash and traffic data, MODOT approved a traffic light in its 2020-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program released earlier this year.
But the $1.7 million needed for the project aren’t in the budget until 2022.
In the meantime, Smith’s dad advises, “You may want to go further down to where the lights are at. Attempting to cross those highways with just that short amount of median in between isn’t working.”
Smith suffered head trauma and several fractures. His family said he was removed from a respirator Tuesday. Police said the other driver wasn’t injured.
UMKC remembered Dieckman as a “diligent, hard-working and careful student, balancing a full course load with aspirations of studying materials science in his graduate career.”
Both crashes remain under investigation.