Pittsfield Police Release Cause Of Fatal Crash at PHS
|The car was seen speeding through the intersection of Second and East Streets.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police say the driver of the car that slammed into the front of Pittsfield High School in January was high on PCP.
The January crash killed Tariq Sally, 34, and Ernest Duck Jr., 37.
The two were in a white 2013 Nassan Altima, owned by Hertz Corp., that was traveling more than 100 mph through the Second Street intersection when it slammed into the wall outside of the school.
Police on Wednesday said toxicology showed the driver, Duck, was found to have phencyclidine (PCP) and marijuana in his system. PCP is commonly mixed with marijuana and has hallucinogenic properties.
Duck reportedly had 270 nanograms per milliliter in his system, police say, and studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that patients with half that dosage have shown psychotic behavior — such as mania, depression and schizophrenia.
"Based upon all available evidence, it is apparent that the cause of the crash is the fact that Mr. Duck Jr. was under the influence of PCP and was not able to safely operate a motor vehicle," according to the police report.
Police have also ruled out that the vehicle itself was defective. Police say the vehicle was being actively steered and was negotiated through traffic as it approached East Street. The vehicle's airbag control recorded no diagnostic trouble codes for any component of the throttle or braking system. The vehicle accelerated for the five seconds leading to the crash with only some last second braking, police said.
Duck was not wearing a seat belt at the time; Salley was.
Witnesses also attested that the vehicle was not being chased, despite multiple rumors following the crash that they were.
The crash not only triggered a massive response from the police and fire departments but also fueled an array of rumors as to what led to the crash. Police had suspicions then of the cause but hadn't released any information until this week, after medical examination reports were returned.
Because of a large influx of family and friends of the victims descending on the hospital at the time, Berkshire Medical Center implemented additional security measures, which fueled even more speculation.
Hospital officials at the time said some secondary doors were locked earlier than normal and the Berkshire County sheriff's department assisted hospital security in ensuring access during the "considerable influx" of people to the emergency room.