Inquest: Teen driver in crash had been drinking
URBANA ? A Paxton teen-ager who was driving a car that crashed in the rural Gifford area last month ? resulting in her death, as well as that of a friend ? had apparently been drinking that evening, according to evidence at a coroner's inquest Thursday.
The coroner's jury ruled that the deaths of both Lindsey Frette, 16, of 610 Cambridge Drive, Paxton, and Elissa McClure, 15, of 309 E. State St., Paxton, both were ruled homicidal deaths.
Jury members told Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Fabian after the inquest that they believed whoever provided alcohol to the driver was responsible for both deaths, according to the coroner's office.
Fabian said Miss Frette was pronounced dead at 12:07 a.m. July 8 at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana. Her death was due to multiple traumatic injuries, he said.
Lab tests of blood taken when Miss Frette was admitted to the hospital showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent, according to Fabian. A sample of eye fluid showed an alcohol level of 0.08 percent, he said. Vitreous fluids lag behind blood alcohol, Fabian told the coroner's jury.
"At some point before this incident, her blood alcohol was higher," Fabian said.
State formulas indicate it had been one to two hours since she had a drink. Consequently, her blood-alcohol level had dropped.
Based on her body weight, Fabian estimated that Miss Frette "may have had three to four drinks sometime before this incident," he said.
According to state standards, someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 is hesitant. The 0.04 level of Miss Frette indicates she would have been impaired in reaction and judgment, Fabian said.
Champaign County Sheriff's Investigator Dave Coffey told the jury that state law has "zero tolerance" of alcohol for anyone under age 18, meaning that any level of alcohol is illegal in a driver who is under the legal drinking age.
Fabian said Miss McClure was pronounced dead at 12:16 a.m. July 8. Her death also was due to multiple traumatic injuries. Her lab tests indicated no alcohol or drugs were present in her blood.
Champaign County Sheriff's Deputy Jon Reifsteck testified that Miss Frette was driving a car west on County Road 2600 N when she lost control as she was traveling over a bridge near the intersection with County Road 2100 E, which is about a mile north of Flatville.
Investigation showed that the car skidded about 500 feet and that both girls were thrown from the car.
Neither girl was apparently wearing a seat belt, since belts for both the driver and passenger were retracted, according to Reifsteck. He estimated the accident happened about 11 p.m. July 7.
Fabian said that lack of seat belts, high speed and alcohol were all contributing factors in the crash.
Evidence indicated that the car had driven through a stop sign near the bridge. The car was going so fast that it was probably airborne before it began to skid, he said.
Investigator Coffey said the two girls and another girlfriend had been to a house in rural Gifford about 5 miles from the scene of the accident. The two girls had left the house, but friends became worried and went looking for them, he said. They discovered the crash scene about 11:23 p.m.
The other girl, apparently distraught, found an 18-pack of beer near the car and threw it into a cornfield on the other side of the road, Coffey said. The pack contained three full cans of beer, he said. The beer pack was discovered the next day by a farmer, who was checking his cornfield for debris from the crash.
Investigators were unable to determine where and when Miss Frette had obtained the beer, Coffey said.
Fabian said the investigation also showed that Miss Frette had a notice to appear in court issued by Champaign police officers after she admitted she had been drinking Southern Comfort and Pepsi. Police records show the ticket for possession of alcohol by someone under age 19 was issued by Champaign police on June 3.
You can reach Steve Bauer at (217) 351-5318 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.