The car in which Zach Myers was riding when he suffered mortal injuries in a Dec. 1, head-on collision was going at least 51 miles an hour — more than twice the posted 25 mph speed limit, according to an Olathe Police Department report released today.
The passenger in the front seat — who, like the driver, survived — told police that shortly before the crash “he looked at the speedometer and noticed that they were traveling 70 mph.”
In addition, the car had partly crossed the yellow line, into the oncoming lane of traffic. The driver of other car, trying to get around a parked truck and trailer, also had come partly across the yellow line.
The driver of the other car told police she was going about 20 miles an hour when the collision took place on North Iowa Street, several blocks north of downtown Olathe.
None of the three people involved in the crash, besides Zach, was seriously injured. Zach suffered a severed head injury.
The police accident report also said that:
— Zach, seated in the back seat behind the driver, was not wearing a seat belt when the first officer got to the scene.
— The 16-year-old driver, a classmate of Zach at Olathe Northwest High School, had borrowed the car from a friend.
— Officers saw no indication that either driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but blood samples were drawn and will be tested at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s forensic laboratory.
The accident report squares with earlier accounts from police and from a woman who arrived on the scene moments after the crash. Police had said last week that the driver had borrowed the car. The woman who came upon the scene, Kathleen McElliott, told me two weeks ago that Zach did not have his seatbelt on when she got to the car and that she believed, based on the severity of the damage to the cars, that at least one of the cars had been speeding.
McElliott said that she had seen blood stains on the lap part of Zach’s seatbelt, but not on the shoulder harness, leading her to believe that if he had been wearing the belt, he might not have had it properly affixed.
The police report is ambiguous on the seatbelt issue, as far as Zach is concerned, because the page with information about the drivers and passengers indicates, by code, that all four people involved in the crash were wearing shoulder and lap belts.
The crash occurred at 10:27 on a Wednesday morning, as the three boys were headed back to Olathe Northwest on College Boulevard, from the school district’s vocational technical in downtown Olathe.
The Elantra was northbound on Iowa when it collided with a southbound, 1998 Dodge Stratus driven by a 20-year-old woman who lives a few blocks from the scene of the crash. The woman, who is five months pregnant, told police she was on her way to the bank to cash a check.
An officer who interviewed the woman said she told him in the hospital that she “noticed a truck parked along the curb so she went around it.
“(She) said that she observed the other vehicle coming towards her and she attempted to swerve out of the way. (She) said that it appeared the driver of the other vehicle was also trying to swerve out of her way and then they hit head on.”
At the point where the crash occurred, the 600 block of North Iowa, the street is narrow and it curves slightly at the juncture of Catalpa Street, which T’s into Iowa from the east.
The driver of the Elantra told Officer Wes Clark that he was going about 60 mph. In a later interview with a different officer, he estimated his speed at 50 to 60 mph. The surviving passenger told Clark that he had seen the speedometer registering 70 mph shortly before the crash.
Based partly on damage to the two cars and also on the woman’s statement that she was going 20 mph, officers who reconstructed the scene determined that the Elantra was going 51 mph at impact. If the woman was going faster than 20, the reconstruction officers said, then the boys would have been going faster than 51.
Clark said that the driver of the Elantra told him he saw the oncoming car come around the parked truck and trailer. He tried to stop, he said, but struck the other car head on.
A diagram of the scene, depicting the cars in the instant before the crash, shows the boys’ car straddling the middle of the road and the woman’s car coming around the truck and edging across the stripe.
The report does not indicate that either driver was cited for a traffic violation.