Police: Driver in fatal crash was speeding
3 Ripley teens died in March wreck
Saturday, April 13, 2013 5:00 AM
A 17-year-old driver accelerated up to 81 mph as he approached a rural southeast Indiana intersection that had a stop sign, and then plowed into a classmate's vehicle, killing three students, a state police report said Friday.
Indiana State Police are recommending the Ripley County prosecutor file charges against truck driver Thomas Crawford, who survived the March 7 crash, Trooper Ben Bastin said Friday.
All of the teenagers involved were students at South Ripley High School in Versailles. Two passengers in the truck told investigators that Crawford sped up and intended to run the stop sign.
Crawford instead crashed into another pickup truck, killing 17-year-old Thomas C. Bowman and 18-year-old Jacob Vogel. Samantha R. Hansen, 18, was riding in Crawford's vehicle and also died.
The report says both drivers ran the stop sign at the intersection. Investigators determined that Crawford's vehicle was traveling between 75 and 81 mph on impact, while Bowman's truck was traveling between 26 and 28 mph. The speed limit in the area is 55 mph.
A month earlier, police stopped Crawford for driving 85 in a 55 mph zone.
Ripley County Prosecutor Richard Hertel is still reviewing the state police report and deciding whether to pursue charges.
Crawford has not spoken to police.
"His family retained counsel on his behalf, and on advice of counsel, he was not speaking to investigators," said Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Noel Houze.
The report contains conflicting accounts of what happened, and two of the surviving passengers in Crawford's truck spoke to police after the accident.
Caleb M. Cumberworth, 15, told police that Crawford sped up when he saw another classmate's vehicle ahead on the road. Cumberworth said Crawford commented that "he was going to catch (the classmate)" and then shifted gears, according to the report.
Cumberworth said that as the truck neared the intersection, he knew that Crawford was planning to run the stop sign. He then saw a red flash - the Ford truck driven by Bowman - on the front right side of the truck.
Kayla Adkinson, 15, another passenger, said she and Crawford saw Bowman's truck approaching the intersection and that Crawford decided he was going to "beat him to the stop sign," according to the report.
Adkinson told police that she thought Bowman was going to stop, but he never did. She also said neither vehicle braked before impact.
She told police that she did not see another classmate's vehicle ahead on the road, as described by Cumberworth.
State police noted in the report that the roads were clear and dry at the time of the crash, and investigators did not find any tire marks that would indicate the drivers used their brakes.