A 14-year-old girl was killed in a single-vehicle crash Monday night. WOWT 6 News Fact Finders has learned the investigation has hit a major snag after a glitch in communication.
First responders were called to Schilling Wildlife Refuge, in Plattsmouth, just before 9 p.m. According to investigators, 13-year-old Colleen Rypkema was driving a 2007 Malibu, at a high rate of speed, on a gravel road. She lost control and rolled the vehicle into a ditch.
Fourteen-year-old Alexandria Wood, the backseat passenger, was ejected. She was taken to the hospital by a medical helicopter, but was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Rypkema and the front seat passenger, 21-year-old Anthony Daniel Lopez-Boomgaarn, suffered minor injuries. Authorities said no one in the car was wearing a seatbelt.
The vehicle is registered to Teresa Rypkema of Plattsmouth.
Fact finders has learned that the vehicle was released back to the owner prematurely, a day after the crash occurred. Normally, vehicles involved in fatal crashes are held until the investigation can be completed.
Duty commander Lt. Larry Burke with the Cass County Sheriff's Office admitted the lapse in communication. "There was a communication glitch and the car was released prematurely unfortunately he says he's not sure how much good it would do to get the vehicle now since the chain of custody has been broken and any evidence would be possibly unusable."
According to Lt. Burke, a message was sent the night of the accident to hold the vehicle, but for some reason, the message did not get entered into the computer.
Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox is also aware of the issue, "I've discovered that the car was released back to the family (owner) I have to meet with the sheriffs office to find out if we can get it back that's nothing I've had to deal with before. Also I learned there was not an accident reconstruction requested. I am waiting on Sheriffs reports before proceeding."
Cox had no further comment.
"He usually doesn't make mistakes, he's a very good sheriff and very conscientious," said John Warsing, Wood's great-grandfather and the Cass County Commissioner.
Fact finders will continue to track this case and pass along any updates as they become available.