KCPD van was go­ing too fast in fa­tal wreck, re­port says

The Kansas City Star - - Front Page - BY GLENN E. RICE grice@kc­star.com

A Kansas City po­lice van was go­ing too fast when it slammed into three other ve­hi­cles last month, killing a high school stu­dent on In­ter­state 435, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port re­leased Thurs­day.

Wit­nesses said the van, driven by an off-duty of­fi­cer, was go­ing as fast as 70 mph when it started brak­ing about 30 feet from the cars stopped ahead in heavy traf­fic head­ing into Ar­row­head Sta­dium.

The Oct. 21 wreck killed 17-year-old Chandan Ra­janna, a Shawnee Mis­sion South se­nior, and se­verely in­jured his fa­ther and sis­ter.

De­tails of the crash were pro­vided in a nine-page crash re­port re­leased Thurs­day by the Kansas City Po­lice De­part­ment. The re­port came hours af­ter The Star pub­lished a story not­ing the Po­lice De­part­ment had failed to re­lease it for more than two weeks.

“The pri­mary con­tribut­ing fac­tor for the col­li­sion is that (the of­fi­cer) was trav­el­ing at a speed higher than sur­round­ing traf­fic, and was un­able to stop, or avoid the ve­hi­cles in front of him, caus­ing the col­li­sion,” the re­port said.

Po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing the wreck that S un­day af­ter­noon found that the weather was dry and clear, the road straight and tilted down­ward, on the stretch of I-435 south of Sta­dium Drive where sev­eral ve­hi­cles were stopped in traf­fic.

About 4 p.m., wit­nesses re-

ported see­ing the van hurtling down the in­ter­state to­ward the stopped cars, trav­el­ing at speeds var­i­ously es­ti­mated from 50 to 70 mph, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

A wit­ness said the van’s brake lights went on about two car lengths from the ve­hi­cles stopped ahead. An­other wit­ness said the van was 20 or 30 feet away when it “locked up the brakes.”

The sounds of “screech­ing tires” “and squeal­ing brakes” were re­ported by driv­ers and pas­sen­gers in sur­round­ing traf­fic.

The van, brak­ing and veer­ing to the left, plowed into the 2017 Mit­subishi Lancer driven by Chandan, the high school se­nior, caus­ing a chain re­ac­tion that also im­pacted two other ve­hi­cles.

The crash left Chandan’s Mit­subishi with “to­tal dam­age to its en­tirety,” the re­port says. Chandan died at the scene, while his fa­ther and sis­ter, whom he was driv­ing to the Kansas City Chiefs game, were crit­i­cally in­jured.

The po­lice van, which the of­fi­cer was driv­ing to an off-duty job at the sta­dium, sus­tained “heavy front end dam­age.”

The of­fi­cer driv­ing the van, also in­jured, rushed to pull the Ra­janna fam­ily from the wreck­age, ac­cord­ing to Eric Flana­gan, a wit­ness to the wreck.

“You saw a guy who was in deep de­spair and he was try­ing to do every­thing he could to help those peo­ple.” Flana­gan said. “It was the worst thing I have ever seen. I saw his face and he started sob­bing.”

Flana­gan said he tried pull on the pas­sen­ger side door as the of­fi­cer tried to yank it open. Fire crews and other po­lice of­fi­cers ar­rived mo­ments later.

“I tried to hold him,” Flana­gan said. “He put his head in his hands and was sob­bing. He was scream­ing – ‘Oh my God.’”

The off-duty of­fi­cer was rushed away by paramedics.

“It was just a hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion,” Flana­gan said. “It’ll be some­thing that I will never for­get be­cause it was pretty haunting.”

Al­though mul­ti­ple wit­nesses and other driv­ers gave state­ments to po­lice that were re­flected in the crash re­port, the off-duty of­fi­cer driv­ing the van did not.

He still had not given a state­ment to in­ves­ti­ga­tors two days later, when Po­lice Chief Rick Smith said he had “no idea” what caused the wreck.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­ported that the off-duty of­fi­cer showed no ev­i­dence of al­co­hol use.

Kansas City po­lice have in­cluded the Mis­souri High­way Pa­trol in the crash in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is on­go­ing.

Capt. Li­onel Colón, a Kansas City po­lice spokesman, said such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion usu­ally takes sev­eral weeks.

By Thurs­day, de­tec­tives had spo­ken with the of­fi­cer who drove the van in the wreck. But be­cause of the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Colón said, he could not com­ment on the of­fi­cer’s state­ments.

“Thor­ough­ness can­not be sac­ri­ficed for the sake of ex­pe­di­ency,” Colón said Thurs­day. “Fatal­ity ac­ci­dents are un­der­stand­ably com­plex and time­con­sum­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The hope is to have the in­ves­ti­ga­tion com­plete in the com­ing weeks to be turned over to the prose­cu­tor’s of­fice. ”

Un­til Thurs­day, the Po­lice De­part­ment had not re­leased a stan­dard po­lice re­port from the wreck, even though Mis­souri law re­quires it.

The Kansas City Star re­quested the in­ci­dent re­port from the wreck one day af­ter it oc­curred, on Oct. 22.

The of­fi­cer in­volved in the wreck has not re­turned to work yet, Colón said.

That of­fi­cer has been with the de­part­ment for six years and is as­signed to the Po­lice Ath­letic League, where he serves as a men­tor and youth coach. The Po­lice De­part­ment has not re­leased his name.

“As in all open in­ves­ti­ga­tions where pos­si­bil­ity ex­ists for a per­son to face charges, the iden­tity of that per­son (is) to be with­held,” Colón said. “We re­spect the le­gal process and will honor it by not re­leas­ing the of­fi­cer’s iden­tity un­til which time is al­low­able.”

Since the wreck, Chandan’s fa­ther and sis­ter have re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized.

His fa­ther Kr­ishna Ra­janna, 81, re­mained in the in­ten­sive care unit at Tru­man Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

Kr­ishna Ra­janna suf­fered mul­ti­ple in­ter­nal in­juries in the wreck, in­clud­ing se­vere arm, rib and leg frac­tures.

Chandan’s sis­ter Lisa Allen suf­fered a brain in­jury and was re­cently moved to a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion hospi­tal in Lin­coln, Neb.

The fam­ily has hired a per­sonal in­jury lawyer.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Chandan Ra­janna, left, is pic­tured with his brother Neil at a wed­ding. Chandan was killed in a traf­fic wreck Sun­day when a Kansas City po­lice van rear-ended the car he was driv­ing.

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