Archive for Thursday, April 17, 2008

Father unhappy with accident report after son’s death

April 17, 2008

The father of a Bonner Springs High School graduate killed by a driver going the wrong way up a highway ramp said he isn't satisfied with a Kansas Highway Patrol's internal unit's investigation of a KHP accident investigation.

Spencer Buck, 21, a 2003 BSHS graduate, was driving his motorcycle to work on July 5, 2006, rounding the exit from northbound Interstate 435 to Woodend Road, when 64-year-old Delores Jones headed the wrong way up that ramp and hit him.

Jess Buck, Spencer's father, was unsatisfied with the accident's investigation, which resulted in no ticket being issued to Jones. In September 2007 Jess Buck requested an investigation into the accident, as well as the conduct of the trooper who wrote the accident report by the KHP's Professional Standards Unit.

The report, written by KHP Trooper Jacody Helton, states in its conclusion that Spencer "either lost control or lays down vehicle 2 (his 2005 Yamaha motorcycle) to avoid collision. Vehicle 1 (Jones' 2004 Nissan Maxima) collides."

Helton's report relies on eyewitness accounts taken from four drivers on I-435 at the time of the accident, as well as from Jones.

One fault of the report, Buck said, was that there was no witness accounts from drivers on Woodend Road. The account of Jones in the report is in fact a written statement from her daughter, Dawn Jones, with no explanation given for this in the report. Buck said Helton had treated him with indifference when he arrived at the scene, and Spencer's mother, Joletta Mize, had also said Helton had made disparaging remarks on the phone to her about sports-bike riders and kept Spencer's wallet and drivers license.

A letter dated April 9 from Terry Maple, colonel superintendent with the KHP, said the PSU investigation concluded that "while the trooper's conduct at the accident scene did not violate KHP policy and procedure, the situation could have been handled with more compassion."

The PSU investigation did result in a ticket being issued to Jones, however, for a violation that requires drivers to obey traffic-instruction devices. The letter announcing the results of the investigation arrived seven months after Jess Buck initially requested the investigation.

"I feel like a lot of the things in my formal complaint were unanswered," Buck said. "I feel like when you kill someone driving the wrong way, a ticket in the mail" is not enough.

One of the items unaddressed was Buck's statement that he heard from a potential witness, Dave Click, who said he was rushed from the scene. Click had told Buck a KHP trooper had later visited him and took his statement. Click's statement and descriptive diagram differed from the information on the crash report, he told Buck, and the trooper tried to persuade him to change his statement.

"I've just been trying to stomach this letter," he said. "I think that not admitting the investigation wasn't handled properly is a red flag. 'Shut up' is what this letter says to me.'"

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