A night of victory and heartache for the Sabetha community


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Driving home from watching their sons win the high school state football championship was supposed to be a lifelong memory, now tragically cut short.

“It’s real life and its something that’s a tragedy and something that affects almost every family in our community,” superintendent of school district 113 Todd Evans said.

Saturday night, a head-on collision on Highway 75 killed 42-year-old Carmen Ukele, 62-year-old Stephen Ukele and 11-year-old Marlee Ukele.

Lee Ukele was the other person in that car. KSNT News is told he’s in disabled condition at a nearby hospital.

“The Ukele’s are the type of people you want as your friends and your neighbors,” Evans said. “They are very giving, very generous people, very involved in the community, very involved in the school.”

He said extra staff will be on hand at Marlee Ukele’s school, Sabetha Elementary, this week to help her classmates work through the tragedy.

“It very much leads to a lot of pain and a lot of grief, and we’re going to work with our students to work through that grief,” Evans said.

The school district’s crisis team and Sabetha Elementary staff have been meeting since Saturday night, trying to find ways to help students cope and to honor the Ukele family.

“The Sabetha community, is very much a community of solidarity that works to support people in need and people who are hurting,” Evans said. “So the thought of being a part of a community like that is a part of why I’m raising my children here.”

The other vehicle involved in the deadly accident was an SUV and the driver was 48-year-old Maria Perez-Marquez from Omaha, Nebraska. She was flown to KU Med in Kansas City.

The passenger, 29-year-old Rosalao Perez from Saint Joseph, Mo., was taken to Stormont Vail in Topeka.

Kansas Highway Patrol said both are disabled.

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