The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) has determined that an Oakman teen's failure to yield the right of way to a Walker County Sheriff's deputy while on an ATV led to the Aug. 2 crash that ultimately resulted in his death.
Austin Aaron, 14, failed to yield the right of way at a stop sign and pulled out in front of Deputy Blake Hudson on Alabama Highway 69 at 10:51 p.m., according to the official crash report obtained by the Daily Mountain Eagle from ALEA's website on Tuesday.
Hudson was exceeding the 35 mph speed limit, though investigators determined that his speed did not contribute to the cause of the crash. All evidence suggests that Hudson had the headlights of his Chevrolet Tahoe on at the time of the crash, in spite of some witness statements that they were off.
Aaron was not wearing a helmet, according to the report.
A cooler and several alcoholic beverages were found in the tree line near the crash site, having seemingly been placed there in an attempt to hide them, according to the report. Blood toxicology results for both Aaron and Hudson are pending.
The report states that Hudson was traveling at 65 miles per hour just prior to the crash and at 57 miles per hour at the time of impact. The report also states that Hudson's vehicle would have been visible to Aaron for at least 22 seconds, which investigators determined would have been sufficient time to yield the right of way in spite of the fact that Hudson was speeding.
"Also, based upon the limited time at which V2 (the patrol vehicle) was able to take evasive action, any difference in braking distance between speeds would not have been a factor...Had V2 been traveling 35 miles per hour at the time V1 pulled out, the crash still would have occurred," according to the report.
Hudson told his supervisor that he was attempting to catch up to a violator vehicle in order to perform a traffic stop. Hudson also stated that he saw ATVs sitting at the stop sign for traffic on Old Tuscaloosa Road and that one of the ATVs darted out in front of him as he approached the intersection.
Juveniles who were with Aaron that night made statements during the course of the investigation that Hudson was traveling with his headlights off at the time of the crash.
One independent witness who was on scene said the headlights were on and several others remembered only that the patrol vehicle's blue lights were activated.
Dash camera and body camera footage from the first responders on scene showed that the headlights of the patrol vehicle were on at the time of their arrival.
Both the patrol vehicle and the ATV were taken to a secure impound yard. While the headlight switch for the patrol vehicle was set to "auto," the headlight switch for the ATV was in the off position, according to the report.
"It is further noted that the ATV, a vehicle designed for off-road use only, was being operated on a public roadway by an unlicensed driver. The operation of an off-road ATV on a public highway 'prima facia' constitutes a violation of 32-5A-190-Reckless Driving...The ATV was also being operated in violation of multiple manufacturer safety instructions, which were clearly posted on the ATV. These violations include being on a public roadway, not using appropriate helmets and safety gear and being operated by a driver under the age of 16," the report states.