T-bone crash killed elderly couple, despite airbags and seatbelts

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Police have identified two people who were killed in a two-car crash at 79th and Mastin on Thursday as Norman J. Russell, 86, and his wife, Norma F. Russell, 80.

"They've been in this neighborhood for a long time, the fact that they went together was obviously a blessing," said their neighbor, Mark Dierking.

The vehicle that struck the Russells' Cadillac Deville was being test-driven by a 19-year-old male driver.  Police said that the Eclipse was traveling southbound on Mastin when the driver ran a stop sign at 79th. The vehicle stuck the Russell's car in a t-bone fashion as it was traveling eastbound.

"Most people think of a head-on collision being the worst kind of crash you can be in," said Michelle Koos, Overland Park Police Dept. "The reality is a t-bone crash can sometimes be more destructive or more deadly or have more impact than those front or rear-end collisions."

Even though both Norma and Norman were wearing their seatbelts, Koos explained that side collisions do not have a 'crumple zone' like front or rear end collisions. The engine compartment in the front and the trunk in the back provide a crumple zone during a front or rear impact, but there is no crumple zone on the side.

An 18-year-old male passenger in the Eclipse was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The driver was not seriously injured.

Investigators planned to return to the site of the crash on Friday to take more measurements and determine whether charges will be filed.

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