Sgt Joe Bernhard
Public Relations Unit/Mounted Unit Supervisor
MEDIA RELEASE - 12-19-13
FINDING OF INVESTIGATION INTO I-70 FATALITY CRASH ON 10-26-13
The Columbia Police Department Traffic Unit has finished its investigation into the fatality crash that occurred on the morning of 10-26-13, Case 2013-012778. The Department also conducted an administrative review into the circumstances and actions that led to the delay in officers discovering the accident involved a human fatality.
The investigation concluded it was likely the bicyclist was in the main-traveled portion of the roadway when he was struck by the semi-truck. The investigation into the crash determined there is not probable cause to believe there was a criminal offense committed by the driver of the truck that struck the victim.
The department's administrative review found there was no reason to believe the accident involved anything besides a vehicle versus deer, until the victim was later found.
The investigation and review shows the original responding officer was dispatched to a dead deer in the roadway. The call originated from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The officer was given additional information that a driver of a semi-truck had called and reported hitting something in the roadway. The officer drove through the accident scene prior to contacting the driver and saw what he thought was consistent with a deer being struck by a vehicle. When the officer responded he did not perceive the area to be a traffic hazard in the roadway as there was very little material remaining in the traveled portion of the roadway. Another officer who drove through the area immediately following the first officer also reported the scene was consistent with a vehicle versus deer accident and there was no immediate traffic hazard in the roadway.
Between the time of the accident and the time it was discovered there was a human fatality, there were other officers and citizens who drove through the area and reported a scene consistent with a deer versus vehicle accident.
At approximately 12:45 PM, a Columbia Police Sergeant was reviewing calls for service which were holding. He saw a "suspicious Incident" call which was forwarded from the Missouri State Highway Patrol where a person reported seeing bloody clothing along the roadway. The sergeant responded and discovered the remains were human.
The Columbia Police Department responds to multiple deer vehicle accidents, especially during this time of year. The normal role of the officer is to determine whether the accident needs to be documented, determine if the animal is still alive and needs attention, or determines whether the deceased animal is causing a traffic hazard and will need to be moved off the roadway. If the officer determines no traffic hazard exists, no further action is usually taken with regard to material in the roadway. Officers are not expected or required to inspect material on or next to a heavily traveled roadway as part of a vehicle versus animal accident investigation unless there are unusual circumstances that warrant it.
The Columbia Police Department acknowledges the terrible loss to the Patrick Family caused by this tragic accident.