Eight days have passed since the head-on car crash that resulted in the death of 16-year-old Zach Myers, a junior at Olathe Northwest High School.
And the public is still without an official explanation regarding the circumstances of the crash, which occurred on a narrow residential street about a mile north of a downtown trade school where Zach took some classes.
So, taking up where I left off on Monday — trying to get answers about this tragedy — I spent part of Wednesday surveying the crash scene and interviewing neighbors.
But first, here’s the latest from Sgt. Johnny Roland, public information officer for the Olathe Police Department. Roland said Wednesday afternoon that he did not expect the traffic unit’s report to be ready at least until next week, and perhaps later. (When it is finished, it will be a matter of public record.)
“There’s tons of data and information to gather,” Roland said, adding that it was “not uncommon” for a fatality investigation to take two or more weeks.
He said he did not know if toxicology tests were being conducted on any of the three survivors — the two boys that Zach was with and the 20-year-old woman who was driving the other car. No one was seriously injured besides Zach, who suffered a head injury.
The head-on collision occurred shortly before 10:30 a.m. Dec. 1 in the 600 block of North Iowa Street. Zach was in the back seat of what a neighbor said was a grey Hyundai Elantra, which was northbound, apparently headed from the technical school to Olathe Northwest on College Boulevard.
The woman, southbound toward downtown, was driving a small red car, the neighbor said.
Everyone involved in the crash apparently was wearing a seatbelt, including Zach.
The neighbor who described the cars, 35-year-old Kathleen McElliott, said she heard the crash and thought that her parked vehicle had been struck. She hurried outside, while her domestic partner was on the phone with a 911 operator. When McElliott looked inside the boys’ car, Zach was struggling to breathe. At that point, the belt was off Zach, she said, but she noticed that blood was on the lap part of the belt. “It looked like he was (had been) wearing at least the lap part of the seat belt,” she said.
She saw no blood on the shoulder harness, however, raising the possibility that that part of the belt was not around Zach’s torso at the time of the crash.
McElliott said she did not remember or notice if air bags deployed in the boys’ car but that the air bag in the woman’s car did deploy.
Zach did not have an open head wound, McElliott said, adding that an emergency medical technician who was at the scene and visited her house a day or two later told her that his injuries were internal.
McElliott said she strongly suspected that excessive speed was a factor. The posted speed limit on that part of Iowa is 25 mph.
“It’s my opinion that at least one of them (the drivers) — I don’t know who — had to be speeding,” McElliott said. “There’s no way that a collision at 25 miles per hour would take a life.”
Like everyone else who has come in close contact with the case, McElliott said her heart went out to the Myers family. “I am deeply sorry for their loss,” she said. “Our kids to go school with them (the boys who were involved.)”
The crash occurred on a section of Iowa that is two lanes, divided by intermittent yellow lines, and where Iowa curves and rises slightly. At the crash site, narrow gouges are visible in the street on both sides of the yellow line. The roadway had been cleaned with a solution that left a large, bleached-out-looking spot in the road.
McElliott said that on the morning of the crash, a large truck was parked on the west side of the street and that the woman who was southbound in the red car could have been trying to navigate around the truck.
McElliott said a lot of drivers exceed the speed limit on Iowa. Indeed, as I was interviewing another neighbor, a car sped by at 45 miles an hour or more. “That’s part of the problem,” said the man I was talking to at his front door.
McElliott said that although she did not know Zach, she is haunted by the incident. “I wish I could have done something more,” she said.
The reason she didn’t, she said, is that the 911 operator had told her partner — who, in turn, had told McElliott — not to move him and to wait for emergency responders to arrive.