No criminal charges against teen driver in fatal crash

Photo By GCSO: This Toyota sedan was severely damaged in the collision. 

None of the injured occupants were wearing seatbelts 

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – No criminal charges will be filed against the 17-year-old driver in a November 2018 head-on collision that took the life of 15-year-old Hannah Blake. 

According to prosecutors, an investigation by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona Department of Public Safety has found no evidence to support any criminal charges.

Photo By GCSO: Both vehicles were found facing northbound in the westbound lane.

The driver will only receive a civil citation for failure to control his vehicle to avoid an accident. 

Hannah was the passenger rear seat occupant in a black, 2004 Toyota sedan headed to Safford from a birthday party in Pima on Nov. 24, 2018. Along with Hannah and the 17-year-old male driver, there was a 15-year-old male front seat passenger and a 15-year-old female driver’s side rear seat passenger.  

The Toyota was eastbound on Safford/Bryce Road and was followed by another car that carried two other friends – a 17-year-old male driver and 16-year-old female passenger.

At about 10:25 p.m., first responders were dispatched to the area of 6565 W. Safford/Bryce Road regarding a collision between two vehicles. Authorities and paramedics came upon the Toyota and a white, 2015 Jeep Wrangler, both facing northbound in the westbound lane. The 17-year-old female driver of the Jeep was wearing a seatbelt and was uninjured other than an abrasion on her arm and declined medical attention.  

Photo By GCSO: The driver of the Toyota was found with his cell phone in his hand.

According to an account the driver of the following car gave to a deputy, both it and the Toyota were traveling at about 45 mph when the Toyota went around a curve and for some reason slid and then went into the oncoming traffic lane. The traveling car’s passenger said the same thing except that she said the Toyota had sped up “a little faster” then the vehicle she was in just prior to sliding. She also added that when they opened the door to check on their friends, the driver was getting a phone call. It is not known for sure, but it is conjecture that the driver may have been attempting to answer his cell phone at the time of the crash, accidentally causing him to swerve into the oncoming lane. No skid marks were located and the female witness in the following car said it seemed like the driver never saw the oncoming Jeep.  

Contributed Photo: Hannah Blake never regained consciousness after the collision.

According to one Graham County Sheriff’s Office deputy’s report, the driver of the Toyota was found with his phone in his hands upon the deputy’s arrival at the scene. With the only way to access the front seat passenger at that time being through the driver’s side and with the driver able to walk, the deputy allowed the driver to stand and walk away from the vehicle. Neither the driver of the Toyota or the Jeep showed any signs of any type of impairment due to alcohol or drugs, according to Sheriff’s Office reports. The driver of the Toyota was taken to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center by paramedics from Lifeline Ambulance and was treated and later released.  

The 15-year-old front seat male passenger was pinned in the vehicle and had to be extricated with assistance from the Pima Fire Department. He suffered severe injuries but due to a delay with one of the helicopters he also was transported to MGRMC initially by Lifeline Ambulance, along with the rear driver’s side passenger.  

Both rear female passengers were found unconscious. The driver’s side rear passenger was removed from the vehicle and Hannah was later removed using a backboard. Both were given immediate medical attention, and Hannah was flown from the scene to Banner – University Medical Center by Air Evac-21 but would never again regain consciousness.   

Hannah Blake was taken off life support and passed Dec. 7, 2018. Her organs were donated to at least four separate recipients whose lives were likely saved due to her gift.

Contributed Photo: Hannah Blake, 15, lies in her bed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson. Hannah suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile crash with no possibility of healing. She was taken off life support and her organs were donated to those in need.

The other two passengers were also severely injured in the wreck and continue to recover.

A GoFundMe page is still active to help Hannah’s family with her medical expenses and can be accessed by clicking here.