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Drugs, alcohol detected in accident victims

By Stephanie Parker

Randall Lee Collins, 20, Tyler James Lewis, 21, Clayton Dean Oliver, 17, and John David Gaddis, 16, died in a one-vehicle rollover accident on 173 South on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2008.

Autopsy results confirm that marijuana derivatives and alprazolam, a psychoactive drug used in anxiety disorder-type medications like Xanax, were found in blood and urine samples from all four youth. Alcohol was detected in Collins, Lewis and Oliver, but not in Gaddis.

Additionally, a plastic bag containing numerous “bar-type yellow pills and one oval vicodin tablet” was found in a pocket of Collins’ clothes, according to the autopsy report.

Travis County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David Polinak and Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Leisha E. Wood determined “multiple blunt force injuries” caused all four deaths.

Department of Public Safety Trooper Anthony “Chip” Aragones, who investigated the accident, named Collins as the driver. Aragones also placed Lewis in the front passenger seat, and said that Oliver and Gaddis were rear-seat passengers in the black Ford 250 pickup truck registered to Richard Sanders, a member of Collins’ family. Aragones said none of the accident victims had been wearing a seat belt and that all had been ejected from the truck, resulting in the blunt trauma that caused their deaths.
Bandera Electric Cooperative employees investigating a power outage that was occurred at approximately 10:30 pm discovered the accident. The pickup truck had downed cedar and oak trees, shattered a utility pole and scattered debris for 35 yards.

Bandera County authorities responded to the crash site and Justice of the Peace Lynn Holt pronounced the four victims dead at the scene at midnight.

The following morning, friends and relatives scoured the area, retrieving mementos from the crash site - CDs, papers, money and articles of clothing. A makeshift memorial rose up on the new utility pole installed to replace the shattered pole.

It was immediately suspected that consumption of alcohol played a role in the crash. When interviewed the day following the crash, Aragones said the accident might have been alcohol-related and that he had ordered an autopsy on the victims.

A Sonic employee notified Bandera County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Christopher Wilson at approximately 10 pm on Nov. 3 that four apparently intoxicated males were occupying a pickup truck parked in a bay at the drive-in restaurant on Main Street. The waitress also told Wilson on occupant of the truck had an open beer bottle in the vehicle and that the driver had hit a Sonic sign while pulling into the space.

She also informed Wilson that the driver had “glazed and bloodshot eyes and slurred speech” and should not be driving. Wilson was in the drive-thru lane behind the black truck - which was still in contact with the Sonic sign it had hit.

Rather than intervening immediately, Wilson radioed Bandera City Police Department Officer Brian Chmylak at 10:13 pm, and requested a meeting with him.

Chmylak and Wilson met at 10:19 pm. When Chmylak heard about the suspected intoxicated driver, he drove around Bandera looking for the truck. Chmylak was still investigating the Sonic incident when the call came in about the accident.

The power outage occurred at 10:20 pm and the accident was discovered at approximately 11:14 pm.

Chief Deputy Don Berger terminated Wilson the next day, Nov. 4, for his non-involvement as speculation arose that law enforcement intervention could have saved four lives. Although Wilson appealed that decision, Sheriff Weldon Tucker upheld the termination, citing three procedural errors ­- "dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming to an officer and failure to further investigate a reported crime.”

Wilson had worked at the Bandera Sheriff’s Department for three years.

The Bandera Police Department received a letter on Dec. 17 from the law offices of Tyler and Peery stating that the victims’ families had a potential claim against the City of Bandera as a result of the Nov. 3 accident.

Bandera County received an identical same letter from Tyler & Perry, which is representing Ollis and Carla Alvarado for minor son Clayton Oliver; Angela Brocco for minor son John D. Gaddis; Mr. and Mrs. Shanon J. Lewis for son Tyler Lewis; and Richard C. Sanders for son Randall Collins. The letter also warned of a potential claim as a result of the Nov. 3 accident.

Bandera County Judge Richard Evans said that Bandera County has not yet been sued.

“The letter was notice of possible litigation. They are researching the accident now. We sent a pre-litigation notice to our insurance carrier as standard procedure,” he said. “So far, we have not been notified of a lawsuit - this was just the warning shot.”

Should litigation be instigated as a result of the crash, Bandera County would be defended by attorneys with the Texas Association of Counties.