The vehicle in which 16-year-old Zach Myers was riding when he suffered mortal injuries on North Iowa Street two weeks ago was a borrowed car, Olathe police said today.
Sgt. Johnny Roland, public information officer for the police department, said he had heard that the driver of the car — a classmate of Zach — did not own the car. Roland said he did not know that for sure, but he made no attempt to otherwise qualify his statement.
Roland said he knew nothing more about the ownership of the car, but he said the official police report of the Dec. 1 crash would address the ownership, when the report is completed and made public.
On Dec. 6, a friend with inside information about the case, told me that people who had visited the Myers family while Zach was in the hospital had reported that the car had been borrowed. The friend also quoted friends of the Myerses as saying that the car had been exceeding the speed limit and that Zach might not have been wearing his seat belt properly.
The fact that the car was borrowed could indicate nothing, or it could be pivotal. For example — and this is just my speculation — the driver might not have been familiar with the car, or the driver might have been less inclined to observe the 25 mph speed limit while driving someone else’s car.
Again, that’s just theorizing, but it’s a point worth considering, in my opinion, especially in the absence of an explanation from police.
The answers to what happened and how on Dec. 1 could help other people avoid similar circumstances in the future. It also could lead to many child-parent discussions about the importance of wearing seat belts properly and heeding speed limits.
Kathleen McElliott, an Iowa Street resident who got to the scene moments after the crash, said last week she believed that, based on the damage to the cars and the seriousness of Zach’s injuries, excessive speed was a factor in the head-on collision. While she did not witness the crash, she said she thought that at least one of the cars had to have been speeding.
In addition, McElliott said that while blood was on the belt part of Zach’s seatbelt, there was no blood on the shoulder strap, indicating that the harness might not have been fastened around his torso.
Zach was seated behind the driver of the northbound vehicle, which McElliott described as a grey Hyundai Elantra. The third boy in the car was in the front passenger seat. The boys apparently were on their way that Wednesday morning to Olathe Northwest High School, having left the Millcreek Center career and technical school in downtown Olathe.
The driver of the southbound car, a small red vehicle, was a 20-year-old woman who is pregnant, police have said.
None of the other three people involved in the crash was seriously injured. The woman’s air bag deployed. McElliott said she did not notice whether the air bags deployed in the front seat of the car Zach was in.
McElliott said Zach was struggling to breathe when she got to the car. She learned later that he had suffered a severe, internal brain injury. She said she wanted to try to help him but followed instructions from a 911 operator to wait for emergency responders.
“I would really like to know the official cause of death,” McElliott said this afternoon. “I won’t feel satisfied until I see on paper that I couldn’t have done more.”