Teen Killed in Car Crash Not Found by Cops for Almost Four Days

By Ray Stern

A 17-year-old driver killed in a car crash in the intersection of Pinnacle Peak and Cave Creek roads was found by police this morning -- four days after the collision happened.

The teen's vehicle was stuck under thick desert vegetation on the intersection's southeast corner, and was not visible from the roadway, a Phoenix police news release states. The release also states the teen "appeared to have died in the accident."

However, police don't know yet whether the teen died immediately after the collision, or how long he might have lived before succumbing to his injuries, says Phoenix police spokesman Luis Samudio.

The teen's tragic death is reminescent of a 2003 case in which three people died after their vehicle was sideswiped on the Loop 101 in Scottsdale and went unnoticed in a culvert for five hours. A lawsuit later claimed the three could have survived with immediate medical care.

This case seems likely to attract lawyers, as well. At the least, there was a serious lack of communication between the vehicle's passenger -- a 19-year-old who survived the crash -- and public safety authorities who knew a collision had occurred on Monday but could not find a vehicle.

Samudio's news release explains what happened:

Date: 11/7/08 at approximately 0730 hours Driver: (Hispanic Male), 17 years old (Deceased, next of kin not notified) Passenger: (White Male), 19 year old (survived, suffered fractures and lacerations)

On Monday, 11/3/08 at approximately 10:00p.m., Phoenix Police officers responded to a check welfare call of a victim lying in the median by the intersection of Pinnacle Peak and Cave Creek. Upon the officers’ arrival, they found a 19-year-old man lying face down with head injuries and multiple lacerations. When the officers spoke to the victim, they detected a strong odor of alcohol emitting from the victims breath and the victim was disoriented. The victim stated he was involved in a vehicle accident but officers could not locate any vehicles involved in an accident in the immediate area. The officers had a police helicopter check the area but, but nothing was found.

The victim was transported to a local hospital with non- life threatening injuries.

On Tuesday, 11/4/08 at approximately 6:30 pm, the Phoenix Police prepared a “missing person” report after the father of the victim called. The father stated he allowed his son to use his family vehicle but was suppose to return home at midnight on Monday night.

On Thursday 11/6/08, missing person investigators received a phone call from the victim’s father. The father told the detectives that he was in contact with his son’s friend, who told him that his son was involved in accident on Monday night. The investigators determined the passenger was the victim who was found in the median on Monday night. The investigators spoke with the passenger and determined where the accident occurred. They went back to the scene that evening but, due to darkness and the terrain of the area they were unable to locate anything. They suspended their search until the next morning.

This morning, 11/7/08, the investigators went back to the scene and located the vehicle. While on foot, the detectives were able to locate the vehicle in an obstructed area of the desert landscaping. The vehicle was beneath heavy desert bush and trees on the south east corner of the intersection of Pinnacle Peak and Cave Creek Road. It should be noted that the vehicle was not visible from the roadway.

The victim was found deceased in the vehicle and appeared to have died in the accident.

This incident is under investigation by detectives.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern