New details are coming out about a car crash that killed 19-year-old Laurel Williams, a 2006 Foothill High School graduate.
Williams was the passenger in a Ford Mustang driven by her friend Katie McKewon, 19, that collided head-on with a Mercedes SUV on Foothill Road Oct. 20, killing her and leaving both McKewon and the 70-year-old driver of the Mercedes in critical condition. McKewon was thrown from the car through the passenger side window. Both have left the hospital and are recovering, according to police.
A makeshift memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and notes was erected next to the accident site on Foothill, just north of Highland Oaks Drive.
Sgt. Mike Collins of the Pleasanton Police Department said an initial investigation shows Williams was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. He said McKewon was not, "though we're awaiting forensic examination of the seatbelt and its associated mechanisms by certified experts."
Collins also revealed evidence that was found in the Mustang.
"A large container of vodka was found in the car, less than half full," he said.
The accident occurred at about 10 a.m. that Saturday morning. The girls had been at what was described as an "all-night party" in Pleasanton and were dropped off at McKewon's car in Dublin that morning, Collins said.
While there's been speculation that parents were present at the party both girls attended, Collins disputed that.
"Person(s) over 21 were at the party but everyone present was within a few years of each other in age," he said. "No parents were involved. The investigation as to where the alcohol came from and who provided it continues, with leads developing daily. The Vehicle Code, Penal Code and Business and Professions Code all provide chargeable violations, should we determine other individuals were involved in supplying the
alcohol that led to this tragedy."
Collins said while they expected toxicology tests to come back yesterday, it now appears they won't be back until Tuesday. Sam Grow, a driving instructor at Driversity in Dublin, was one of the first people on the accident scene, along with his 15-year-old driving student.
The Vallejo resident said he had his student call 911 on his cell phone, as did others who came upon the sccene, but it seemed like an eternity before emergency service personnel responded.
"I'd say it was 15-17 minutes," he said. "Lord, that's the reason you carry a cell phone--if you have a problem or an accident."
Since the accident, he said he and his driving student have been emotionally scarred from what they witnessed. He added that he's contacted the CHP and state senators in the Vallejo area in an effort to change the way 911 calls are handled.
Both Collins and Officer Steve Creel of the California Highway Patrol, dispute Grow's claim of a response delay after researching the police call logs.
"While it's true he did arrive on scene, so did many others," Collins said. "They had no problem getting through. The collision occurred at (9:58 a.m.) and, as a result of peoples' 911 calls, officers were dispatched within two minutes at (10 a.m.). The first officer arrived on scene at (10:02 a.m.), with two more at (10:05 a.m.) and another at
"Mr. Grow, while no doubt a saged driving instructor, may well have fallen victim to the same time perception issues many persons experience during emergencies...a minute will sometimes seem like an hour," Collins added.
Creel said 911 calls made from a cell phone, like Grow's, go to the CHP's Golden Gate Communications Center in Vallejo. Once a dispatcher at that center receives the call, they then transfer the caller to the appropriate jurisdiction or area where the emergency occurred, he said.
While Creel said this incident was handled appropriately, there have been incidences where delays occur.
"Cell phones give you a general location or no location," he said. "So, a lot of times, it's like playing "20 Questions" with somebody where they may have as little as that they're calling from Foothill Road but they have no other data, so the dispatcher has to ask what county they're in or what city they're near."
Asking additional questions with a caller prolongs the time in which an ambulance or police can respond.
Creel said people calling from a cell phone who witness an accident should immediately figure out their exact location, right down to the street's block number if possible, and relay that to dispatchers. Another option would be knocking at a nearby residence and using a landline telephone. He added that new technology is in the works, called e911, that would work as software on cell phones that would allow dispatchers to more easily identify through global position systems (GPS) where callers are calling from.