RIPLEY COUNTY, IN (FOX19) - An Indiana State Police report on a deadly crash that killed three teens from South Ripley High School last month is revealing that the driver of the white Dodge pickup intentionally sped-up to try to beat the other pickup through an intersection just moments before they collided.
Both drivers and their passengers had been attending a Future Farmers of America event at nearby Hopewell Church that morning but were approaching the intersection from different roads. Therefore, they didn't crash head-on. The white Dodge hit the driver's side of the red Ford pickup, according to a crash report Indiana State Police made public Thursday, five weeks to the day that the driver of the red Ford, one of his passengers, and a passenger in the white Dodge were killed.
"(The Dodge's driver) said that he was going to beat him to the stop sign and sped-up," an investigator wrote, based on what a surviving passenger told him.
Another passenger told the investigator that the white Dodge driver "commented that he was going to catch him, shifted into 5thgear" and sped-up.
The report appears to be at odds with a state police press statement released to the media four days after the crash. In it, Sgt. Noel Houze wrote that ISP's investigation "eliminates speculation the drivers were engaged in a race."
When FOX19 asked Sgt. Houze to comment today on why he made that statement, he responded in an e-mail, "As far as 'racing' is concerned, the investigation indicated (the Dodge's driver) was speeding-up to catch-up to another vehicle and to beat the other pickup truck through the intersection, but the vehicles involved were not 'racing' one another."
However, Merriam-Webster's definition shows that the driver of the Dodge pickup was "racing." The word doesn't depend on another person being involved.
But what about the driver of the red Ford? The first paragraph of the state police report says both drivers "ran the stop sign." In addition, one of the surviving passengers in the white Dodge told state police that it appeared the driver of the red Ford was also speeding. We may never know whether he saw the Dodge coming, though. Both boys in the red Ford died and the 17-year-old driver of the white Dodge isn't talking. His parents have invoked their son's Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and are not allowing investigators to speak with their son, according to state police.
The prosecutor in Ripley County has not yet made a decision about whether any charges should be filed in this case.
The crash report also reveals that a high school teacher gave permission for at least two of the kids to leave the all-day F.F.A. event to get some drinks and come back, telling them to "drive careful." The teacher told other students who asked for permission to leave that they had to stay. But the report reveals they left the event anyway, raising questions about whether school personnel realized they were gone.
FOX19 e-mailed superintendent Rob Moorhead asking if any school employees had faced discipline over this matter. He did not reply.