The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating whether marijuana and other drug use contributed to Saturday’s double-fatality accident near Eudora on Kansas Highway 10, a trooper said Monday.
Preliminary autopsy results show Ryan M. Pittman, 24, whose Toyota Camry crossed from the eastbound to the westbound lanes and struck a minivan head-on “tested presumptively positive for marijuana,” Trooper Casey Simoneau said.
A Douglas County coroner’s spokeswoman said later Monday the preliminary autopsy also showed Pittman had benzodiazepine, which is a depressant used in drugs to treat insomnia and anxiety, and methadone in his system. But the full autopsy with a detailed toxicology report could take several weeks, she said.
Pittman and Cainan Shutt, a 5-year-old Eudora boy who was traveling in the van with his paternal grandparents, died in the crash at 3:30 p.m. Saturday near the Church Street interchange in Eudora, according to the highway patrol.
“He was a great kid,” said Cainan’s maternal grandfather Chuck Lawrence of Overland Park. “We’re emotionally distraught, everybody, friends and family.”
Cainan’s sister, 23-month old Courtlyn Shutt, was recovering from a broken neck at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Lawrence said the last few days had been grim for family members, except when they learned Courtlyn could possibly leave the hospital soon.
“They expect a full recovery and for her to be a normal child growing up,” he said.
The children were riding in a westbound Dodge Caravan minivan with their grandparents, Danny and Deborah Basel, who also were taken to area hospitals from the scene. A spokesman at Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., Monday said an update wasn't unavailable on the condition of Deborah Basel, 51. However, Lawrence said she was in critical condition but expected to recover after suffering several broken bones and a head injury.
The family also said Danny Basel was released from Overland Park Regional Medical Center a few hours after the crash, in which he suffered a broken wrist and ribs.
Troopers said after the accident that Pittman was the only person involved who was not wearing a seat belt.
Simoneau said Monday the van was traveling in the outside westbound lane before it was struck. He said investigators were still compiling witness statements and information about the accident, and a final report could take weeks to complete.
The trooper did say he expected marijuana use will be listed as a contributing factor on the report, based on the preliminary results from Pittman’s autopsy. Simoneau also said troopers checked records after the accident and believed Pittman’s license was not valid. The records showed a suspension and expiration, he said.
According to Pittman’s obituary, he graduated from Eudora High School in 2006 and had been attending Johnson County Community College trying to earn a degree in electrical technology. In this obituary his family said he also loved fishing and hunting. His funeral is 8 p.m. Wednesday at De Soto Baptist Church.
Attempts to reach family members Monday were unsuccessful.
Gonzalo Carrasco, a Kansas University assistant professor of pharmacology, said of the presence of marijuana, benzodiazepine and methadone in his system could have produced a major impairment because of their effects.
“That’s a very bad combination,” Carrasco said.
Benzodiazepines are used in prescriptions to treat insomnia and to produce calm for people who suffer from anxiety. He said methadone is used as a painkiller or to treat someone for addiction.
Lawrence said his family would not comment on the circumstances of the accident until the highway patrol had a final report in the case. But he said the family wanted to honor Cainan after his death.
The 5-year-old boy, who is the son of Tommy and Ali Shutt of Eudora, was scheduled to attend kindergarten roundup Monday. He was a preschool student at the Inchworm Clubhouse in Eudora.
Funeral services are planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. Friends have set up a memorial fund at Kaw Valley State Bank in Eudora.
His grandfather described Cainan as a fun child who loved the outdoors whether it was simply playing outside with friends, in his T-ball league or fishing with his dad.
“His funeral will be representative of the way he was,” Lawrence said, “and his energy and his love for life.”