Police officer stopped car with drunk teens, let them go before fatal crash

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Police Officer Stopped Car With Drunk Teens, Let Them Go Before Fatal Crash

EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. -- Two teenagers are dead, and two are hospitalized after a deadly wreck on 291 Highway Monday morning, but police now say officers stopped the car shortly before the crash.

Excelsior Springs police confirm that they did pull over the car the teenagers were in overnight; the officers spoke to the teenagers, and then let them drive away. The fiery crash happened later at about 4:20 a.m. The driver, a 19-year-old man, was headed south on 291 Highway when he hit a pole and the vehicle overturned at Salisbury Road. The vehicle then caught on fire.

Family members of one of the teenagers in the car say the group was at a house party in the Excelsior Springs area, and then decided to go to Independence.

Excelsior Springs police declined an interview on Monday evening, but did answer several questions.

When FOX 4's Molly Balkenbush asked if officers tested the driver to see if he was under the influence, Captain Clint Reno said "yes."

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He went on to say that there was "next to nothing" in the teenager's system Monday morning. In a news release Tuesday morning, Excelsior Springs Police said officers pulled over the car of teens after officers heard someone yelling loudly from within the vehicle. The light was also out on the license plate.

According to the news release, the officer detected an odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. The passengers all said they had consumed alcohol at a party before the driver picked them up.

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As a result, the driver was asked to exit the vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests. The driver exhibited no signs of impairment. The driver further submitted to a portable breath test, which showed less than half of the .02 BAC required by Missouri state statutes for minor in possession. A vehicle search was conducted and no alcohol or alcoholic beverage containers were located." (Excelsior Springs Staff Sergeant Larry Tarrant)

Family of one of the survivors says the teenager behind the wheel was the designated driver for the night. Everyone in the car was under the age of 21.

At the time of the FOX 4 report Monday night, Excelsior Springs police didn't have an answer when asked why officers let the driver leave when he is underage and had alcohol in his system, but the department answered that question in its news release Tuesday morning. Click here to read the complete news release.

FOX 4 spoke to the father of one of the injured survivors who said that the four guys were good friends.

"I praise god, I mean two kids died in that car and I personally knew them... I can't believe they are gone," said Greg Handy, father of crash victim Corey Handy.

Excelsior Springs police say the teenagers were pulled over Sunday night because they were hanging out of the windows of the car and hollering.

Officers say the driver was cooperative and said he would put the child locks on the windows to keep his friends in the car. According to police, the teenagers were then sent on their way.

The driver of the car was later one of two killed when the car crashed.

FOX 4 also spoke to the other teenager who survived the crash who is in the hospital. He said he remembers police pulling over the car. He said he and the other underage passengers were intoxicated.

Excelsior Springs police say they will investigate to determine why the officers allowed the teenagers to drive away.

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