(Versailles, Ind.) - Indiana State Police have released new details, including the accounts of two victims, in a crash that killed three South Ripley High School students.
Two pickup trucks collided after they each ran the stop sign at the intersection of Fairgrounds Road and County Road 850 West on Thursday, March 7.
Samantha Hansen and Jacob Vogel were killed, along with one of the drivers, Curtis Bowman. Three others were hurt, including the second driver, Thomas Crawford.
A recently released Indiana State Police crash report details the accident and the events leading up to it. The students were at a school sponsored breakfast at Hopewell Baptist Church. Hansen asked teacher and Future Farmers of America sponsor Doug Holland to go to get drinks, which had ran out for a breakfast students were helping with at the church.
“Mr. Holland told her that she could and she said that she would go with Thomas (Crawford) or ‘Tommy’ and get them to which Mr. Holland replied, ‘Drive careful,’” according to the crash report.
Soon afterwards, Timothy Bowman asked Holland if he could go home to get gas for his four-wheeler. Holland twice stated “No.” However, another student at the breakfast told investigators that he told Bowman to go ahead and leave and he would “cover for him.”
Hansen, along with Kayla Adkinson and Caleb Cumberworth, went as passengers in Crawford’s vehicle to go to the Town of Osgood and fetch the drinks. Jacob Vogel rode with Bowman.
None of the people in either vehicle knew the other group had left. Crowded parking at the church and the larger pickup trucks driven by the teens dictated that they go opposite directions from the church.
Minutes later, the two vehicles approached the intersection – Crawford’s Dodge Ram was eastbound on Fairgrounds Road and Bowman’s Ford F-250 northbound on County Road 850 West.
Kayla Adkinson sat in the middle of the front seat of Crawford’s Dodge. She told the state police that it felt like Crawford was speeding and he had seen Bowman’s truck approaching on County Road 850 West.
“Knowing that it was Timothy ‘Curtis’ Bowman, Thomas said that he was going to beat him to the stop sign and sped up, which Kayla said that it looked faster than they should have been going. Kayla stated that Timothy ‘Curtis’ Bowman looked as if he was speeding also and thought that he was going to stop , but stated they never did,” the report stated.
Riding in the back seat of Crawford’s truck, Cumberworth offered Indiana State Police a different story. He said they were travelling about 30 or 40 MPH toward the four-way stop when Crawford spotted another student’s car – not one involved in the crash – straight ahead on Fairgrounds Road.
“Tommy commented that he was going to catch him, shifted into 5th gear speeding up and asked Samantha if she saw anyone coming, which Samantha replied, ‘I don’t see anybody,” investigators were told by Cumberworth.
Cumberworth said he scrunched up in the backseat as he realized they were going to run the stop sign. At the intersection, Crawford yelled and Cumberworth saw a red flash – Bowman’s truck – in front of their vehicle.
Investigators explained the difference in accounts of the accident to Cumberworth and Adkinson’s seating in Crawford’s truck. By sitting in the front seat, Adkinson may have had a better view of both roads. Cumberworth’s side view vision could have been restricted in the backseat of the extended cab truck.
The impact of the crash was so violent that it separated the bed from the frame of the Ford. Both vehicles, in a tangled metal mess, came to a rest in a corn field a few hundred feet northeast from the point of impact. Police could find no physical evidence that either truck tried to brake.
First responders on scene found that each of the six victims were wearing a seatbelt.
A third witness to the crash was Jacob Steuver, who was driving the vehicle ahead of Crawford’s on Fairgrounds Road. Steuver had also been going to town to get drinks, but the report did not address if he was given permission. He witnessed the crash in his rear-view mirror about a quarter mile behind him. He advised police he saw Bowman run the stop.
Steuver turned around after witnessing the accident.
“Jacob did say that he tried to do all he could at the scene, but didn’t know what could be done,” investigators wrote in the report.
Indiana State Police also spoke with Opal LaBolt, who lives near the intersection and called 911. When she opened her door and saw police she stated “I heard the crash.”
LaBolt then told police that vehicles constantly run that four-way stop, especially when crops are harvested, because the sightlines extend so far each way.
Another neighbor told WKRC-TV that since the crash she has not seen anybody run the stop – now the site of three wooden crosses.
An interview with Crawford was not in the report. Indiana State Police said last month that Crawford’s parents declined their request to interview him about the crash.
Investigators also learned that Crawford may have had a habit of speeding. Just a few weeks earlier on February 8, Crawford had been ticketed for driving 70 MPH in a 55 MPH zone on US 421 in Ripley County. Versailles Town Marshall Joe Mann, who wrote the ticket, advised that he had actually clocked Crawford at 85 MPH, but reduced the speed on the citation.
The Ripley County Prosecutor’s office is now reviewing the crash report to determine if any charges will be filed for the fatal crash.
As of March 28, blood test results for Bowman, Hansen, and Vogel had been received, but were not included in the report. Results for Crawford had not yet been returned.