Topeka man in wheelchair rescued after 11 hours in grassy ravine

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – May 4, 2015

A homeless man who lost control of his motorized wheelchair Sunday night and spent nearly 11 hours stuck in a grassy ravine in southeast Topeka was rescued Monday morning after a passerby saw him and notified authorities.

The man, who had lost both of his legs, suffered no apparent injuries in the incident, police said.

Topeka police officers, firefighters and American Medical Response personnel pushed the man while he was in his wheelchair up the slippery, grassy slope around 8:15 a.m. Monday in the 200 block of S.E. 37th.

A light rain had passed through the Topeka area between around 6 and 7 a.m. Monday, but the overnight temperature bottomed out at 63 degrees.

Police Officer Bill Wempe said the man told officers he was riding his wheelchair to a nearby Kwik Shop on Sunday night when he needed to use the rest room.

The man then steered his wheelchair onto the grassy area off the sidewalk on the north side of S.E. 37th, just west of S.E. Evans.

The man told officers his wheelchair then went “end over end” down the slope. The man said he was tossed out of his chair.

Wempe said the man, identified as Michael Clark, 50, was able to climb back into his wheelchair, but because of the incline and high grass wasn’t able to “get enough traction” to make his way back up the slope.

Clark remained stuck in his wheelchair through the night and past sunup on Monday, when someone walking along the sidewalk in the 200 block of S.E. 37th finally noticed him.

A couple of police units, a fire truck and AMR ambulance were on the scene to assist the man.

Clark was evaluated at the area and declined medical attention. Wempe said the initial plan was to put him on a gurney and carry him about 25 feet up the ravine.

However, it was later decided to have Clark remain in his wheelchair, which was pointed toward the top of the small hill. Several of the emergency responders then pushed the man’s chair with him in it up the hill.

Once on top of the hill, Clark didn’t wait around, heading east on S.E. 37th toward S.E. Colfax, where he apparently knew someone who could help him.

But about a block away on S.E. 37th, Clark’s wheelchair came to a stop after Wempe said it “ran out of juice.”

Wempe and police Officer Bill Thompson then went up the street and attempted to get help for Clark.

Wempe said polices inquired whether Wempe was a military veteran for possible help at Topeka’s Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center, However, Wempe said, Clark indicated he wasn’t a veteran.

Calls were placed to the Topeka Rescue Mission’s Operation Street Reach in hopes it would be able to assist.

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