Driver of crashed Gator part of a prison crew

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By Shane Farley
April 9, 2013 - 10:24:23 pm

A driver said to have caused a rollover accident in Winfield Monday was an inmate at the local prison doing work for the city.

Kansas Dept. of Corrections records show Michael S. Thornton, 44, was transferred from Winfield Correctional Facility to El Dorado Monday. El Dorado Correctional facility has an infirmary to provide health care for sick or injured inmates.

Thornton, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol, was westbound from the Broadway Recreation Complex in Winfield when he failed to stop at a stop sign and struck a vehicle. He was driving a John Deere Gator owned by the city of Winfield and used for maintenance at the complex, city manager Warren Porter said.

The collision caused an SUV, operated by Brandi Chisholm, to rollover before coming to rest on its tires.

Chisholm remained in fair condition Tuesday evening at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, according to information from the hospital.

Porter would not comment on the inmate involved in the crash. He did say the city generally has between 15 and 25 correctional facility employees working for it, depending on the season.

Inmates can drive items like riding lawn mowers and gators that are not classified as motor vehicles. City officials said the price of a new Gator is about $10,000.

Thornton has been in and out of prison since 1998 and has convictions for drug possession, theft, aggravated burglary and driving while a habitual offender.

He had been transferred to Winfield in late March.

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