Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

March 7, 2013

Two survivors interviewed about fatal accident

Investigators learn drivers were not racing


The Herald-Tribune

— The investigation is continuing into the crash north of Holton that claimed the lives of three South Ripley High School students Thursday, March 7, reported Sgt. Noel Houze, Indiana State Police Versailles District public information officer, Monday afternoon, March 11.  

“Investigators interviewed two of the surviving teens and determined that both vehicles left the event at the Hopewell Church a few minutes apart, but neither driver knew the other had left.”

The 1999 Dodge Ram was driven west on Hopewell Road away from the church because of the volume of other vehicles parked near the parking lot driveway, making it difficult for a vehicle the size of the Ram to negotiate a left turn and go east on Hopewell Road to County Road 850 West (the most direct route).

According to him, “This information explains why students leaving the same event went different directions. A short time after the Dodge Ram left, the occupants of the 1996 Ford F-250 departed and drove directly to County Road 850 West and turned north. Investigators have determined the vehicles left at different times and each driver was unaware of the other leaving. This eliminates speculation the drivers were engaged in a race.”

Houze explained, “Under Indiana law, before investigators can interview a juvenile, parental consent is required. The parents of Thomas Crawford (the surviving driver) have sought counsel on behalf of their son and have invoked his right to remain silent and declined permission for investigators to conduct an interview.”

The investigation will continue and upon its conclusion, information will be forwarded to the Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office for review to determine what charges, if any, are warranted. Any future statements will come from that office.

The sergeant noted, “Complex investigations of this nature often take several weeks of review before any decisions are made.”

Posted March 8:

Three of six South Ripley High School students who had been attending a Future Farmers of America daylong event at Hopewell Baptist Church Thursday, March 7, were killed in a two-vehicle crash, according to the Indiana State Police, who held a news conference that afternoon.

At about 9:46 a.m., a 911 call was received at the Ripley County Communications Center reporting a serious crash at the intersection of Fairgrounds Road and County Road 850 West in western Ripley County just north of the church, according to a news release from Sgt. Noel Houze, ISP public information officer.

A 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 driven by Thomas Crawford, 17, Dillsboro, was eastbound on Fairgrounds Road and a 1996 Ford F-250 pickup driven by Timothy Bowman, 17, Osgood, was northbound on County Road 850 West, reported Master Trooper Ben Bastin. “As both vehicles approached the four-way stop intersection, preliminary reconstruction findings indicated both vehicles disregarded the stop signs and the Dodge struck the F-250 broadside,” according to the release.

After impact, the vehicles traveled off the road about 100 feet into a cornfield in the intersection’s northeast corner.

Bowman and two passengers were killed: Jacob Vogel, 18, Versailles, in the F-250’s front seat, and Samantha Hanson, 18, Holton, in the Dodge Ram’s front seat.

Crawford and two Holton passengers in his back seat were injured: Caleb Cumberworth and Kayla Adkinson, both 15.

The hurt were transported to Margaret Mary Community Hospital. Crawford was transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center with fractured ribs and a bruised lung and was released late Thursday night, Houze reported midday Friday.

Police heard comments after the crash that the teens left the church to go into Osgood to get a snack after serving breakfast to farmers. “Hopefully we can confirm that,” Houze commented.

He noted, “We don’t know if they were racing or not.” Troopers planned to interview a survivor later Friday afternoon. “Hopefully he will be able to shed a little light on what was going on just before the crash.”

Police believe all six were wearing seatbelts.

The crash remains under investigation, Houze said. Troopers have not determined yet how fast the vehicles were traveling. “I think they will be able to get a range,” according to him.

Also assisting at the scene were ISP Sgt. Mark Helms and Master Trooper Jeff Cumberworth, Caleb Cumberworth’s uncle; the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office; Holton and Versailles fire departments; Ripley County EMS; and Ripley County Coroner’s Office.

“The Ripley County Soil and Water Conservation District and our partners would like to send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of the three students that lost their lives in Thursday’s tragic accident,” said RCSWCD coordinator Kim Jolly, Versailles.

“The students ... have touched the lives of many in our community. This accident is devastating and the students will be greatly missed. Our hearts are with their loved ones and the whole community during this time. Prayers are also with the injured students and their families as they recover.”