Kansas Highway Patrol investigators focused on 24-year-old Ryan Pittman’s use of marijuana, anxiety medication and methadone as a contributing factor to a deadly April 16 crash on Kansas Highway 10 near Eudora.
“The combination of drugs in (Pittman’s) system would cause response time to be very slow,” Trooper Casey Simoneau wrote in his accident report completed this week.
Pittman and 5-year-old Cainan Shutt, of Eudora, died in the crash. Troopers said Pittman’s eastbound Toyota Camry drifted across the median near the Church Street interchange and struck head-on the westbound minivan that Cainan’s stepgrandfather, Danny Basel, was driving.
Simoneau told the Journal-World earlier in the week that drug use and driver inattention would be listed as contributing factors to the crash but that troopers wouldn’t know a specific cause for Pittman’s car drifting across the median.
A preliminary autopsy report indicated Pittman had marijuana, benzodiazepine and methadone in his system, but the full autopsy is not yet complete.
Simoneau’s written report obtained by the Journal-World lists more details about what troopers discovered, mostly through interviews, in their investigation:
- Pittman was attending a methadone clinic, and his last known payment to the clinic was March 25.
- He would also take Xanax, a type of benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety, without a prescription once or twice a day if he had the pills.
- Pittman also would smoke marijuana two or three times a day when he had it.
- The highway patrol initially identified Pittman as a Eudora resident, but the report lists a Lawrence apartment as his address. Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson has said Pittman’s family has longtime ties to Eudora.
- Troopers found no evidence that Basel, a Eudora man who is a city of Lawrence public works employee, was impaired or that he was using his cell phone during the crash. Ali Shutt, Cainan’s mother, has said her children were with their grandparents for an Easter egg hunt that afternoon. Cainan’s sister, Courtlynn Shutt, 2, suffered a broken vertebra but is expected to make a full recovery, and his grandmother Ann Basel was also injured and later released from the hospital.
- Cainan was secured by a seat belt and booster seat, and Courtlynn was secured in a child-restraint seat with a harness. The Basels wore seat belts, but Pittman did not.
- According to Danny Basel’s written statement to troopers, his wife grabbed his arm when she saw the car coming across the median. He immediately put his foot on the brake to slow down to 60 mph, and he tried to move into the inside westbound lane to avoid the Camry. But a car in that lane was too close for him to move over. “At that time I looked to see where the car was, and he was about eight feet from us,” according to Basel’s statement. “I decided to change lanes and at that instant he turned into us and hit us head-on.”
- Troopers said the speedometer on the Camry stopped at about 45 mph and the van’s speedometer was stopped at approximately 65 mph.
- The report also notes Pittman’s license was suspended at the time. According to state records, the suspension took effect Jan. 25 for failing to maintain continuous liability insurance or file evidence of insurance. His state driving record listed zero prior accidents.
After the crash, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback directed the Kansas Department of Transportation to reopen a study about whether a cable barrier should be installed in the median along K-10 east of Lawrence to stop vehicles from drifting into the wrong lanes of traffic. KDOT officials are scheduled to meet with city officials, including those from Lawrence and Eudora, on Thursday.