Fatal fiery crash case moves to DA; updated report says 16-year-old surviving driver had ingested illegal drugs

photo by: Sara Shepherd

A charred spot along N. 1650 Road, just east of the Lawrence city limit, is pictured Monday, July 3, 2017. The previous night, a Douglas County sheriff's deputy discovered a body inside a burning vehicle that apparently had left the roadway and collided with a parked truck.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has finished its investigation into a July 2 crash that killed a 15-year-old boy, and the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office is now considering whether any charges are merited.

The report was completed and forwarded to the DA’s office for review on Monday, Sgt. Kristen Channel of the sheriff’s office said.

There is no timeline for when the DA’s review will be complete or when a charging decision will be made, said Cheryl Wright Kunard, assistant to DA Charles Branson.

As of the close of last week, just over six months since the crash happened, the sheriff’s office was still wrapping up its investigation.

Among the final missing pieces were results of an impairment test given to the 16-year-old boy who was driving the car when it crashed.

In addition to having no driver’s license, the driver tested positive for illegal drugs at the time of the crash, according to the newly amended accident report. The report does not indicate the type or amount of drugs.

About 9:15 p.m. July 2, a sheriff’s deputy on routine patrol saw smoke and flames, then discovered a burning car on North 1650 Road, east of East 1600 Road. The car had crashed into a farm truck that was parked alongside the gravel road.

The body of Dalton E. Hess, 15, of Lawrence, was found inside the car.

The 16-year-old boy who had been driving was found at the scene and taken to a Kansas City area hospital. Douglas County District Court records indicate that boy, now 17, is currently in juvenile custody regarding a possession of marijuana case filed against him in August.