Jeep Driver Blames ‘Stuck Throttle’ for Killing Bystander, Authorities Aren’t Convinced Yet

The driver involved in a crash that killed a woman in May reportedly asked that police keep his vehicle "under shelter."
A screenshot of a YouTube video from WOOD TV8 showing the aftermath of a crash in which a drag racing Jeep CJ struck a family's yellow Jeep Wrangler, that resulted in the death of a 33-year-old spectator.
WOOD TV8 screenshot via YouTube

A crash during an unsanctioned, amateur drag race at Michigan’s Silver Lake Sand Dunes killed a 33-year-old mother of two late last month, when a heavily modified Jeep CJ lost control at an estimated 85 mph, jumped a sand berm, and launched into spectators. The driver of the vehicle told police that he believed the throttle was stuck, but investigators say they have been unable to reproduce the phenomenon described, and an independent expert found that the truck had “adequate stopping power and stopping equipment.”

The driver put his speed at 60 mph—15 mph lower than what witnesses have reported—when the Jeep left its intended path and struck the parked Jeep Wrangler belonging to the Price family, which in turn struck Kadie Price after she had pushed one of her children away from the impending wreck. Her husband Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Charlie Price and their two children were “not seriously injured,” per WOOD-TV. The dunes comprise an area of the Silver Lake State Park, open to the public and where off-roading is common.

Since the May crash, authorities have closely reviewed three pieces of footage from bystanders, so they have an understanding of how the events unfolded. They also seized the Jeep to examine it thoroughly. Initially, the driver—a 64-year-old man whose identity has been kept anonymous—was reportedly “very cooperative at the scene,” per Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast. However, “he grew a little less cooperative as time went on,” and was said to have requested that the CJ be kept under shelter, according to a park employee.

“(The driver) looked at a (park) ranger and I and asked if his Jeep gets impounded if it could go somewhere with a roof because ‘there’s a lot of money put into it,'” the employee said, according to WOOD-TV. Police didn’t take custody of his vehicle until two days after the crash, at which point, the individual seemed to push back more strongly at the prospect of seizure.

“I explained to (the driver) that it was determined the Jeep would need to be held as evidence until the case was reviewed by the Prosecutor,” one investigator wrote of their phone call with the man. “(The driver) was not happy with this and advised that he had been watching the news regarding the incident and that he was aware that the female that was killed in the crash was the wife of a Deputy Sheriff. (The driver) advised that he had a feeling that we would ‘throw him under the bus’ for this. I advised (the driver) this was not the case and that I investigate all incidents the same regardless of who was involved.”

Of course, the driver ultimately had no choice but to relent and surrender the Jeep, though he did apparently notify the investigator of his displeasure, and said that he’d be contacting his attorney.

Sheriff Mast shared the department’s assessment of the vehicle, as well as those of “local experts,” with the news station on Friday.

“(The Jeep) was set up very much for drag racing,” Mast told WOOD-TV. “We examined the braking system, the transmission, the drive system on it. We’re told by the local experts that it’s a high-dollar, well-built machine. It was set up very well, and it should have been capable of stopping with the braking system that was operating on the vehicle.”

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes were made exempt from a law that disallows drag racing in public areas in 2021. Mast noted that while there have been some injuries during races at the dunes, which attract approximately 300,000 riders annually, Price’s death was the first fatality.

There is a list of rules and regulations primarily directed toward off-roaders at Silver Lake, published by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. However, it doesn’t state a precise speed limit (only that vehicles must be driven “at a safe speed and in a safe manner”), and there are no hard rules about how far away pedestrians must be from the course.

The Sheriff’s Department expects it will soon hand over the case to the Oceana County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine if the driver will face criminal charges. Mast told the news channel that he knows the investigation “seems to be taking a little bit of time, but we owe it to the families that have been affected by this to do our due diligence and make sure we’re using everything available to do this investigation properly and fully.”

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