A Durango teenager has been charged as an adult with three counts of manslaughter on suspicion of causing a triple fatality crash on an Oklahoma highway last spring, killing a grandmother and her two grandchildren.
The charges and decision to prosecute Noah Alexander DeDear, who was 17 years old when the crash occurred last March, were filed Monday, according to Oklahoma State Court records. According to reports, DeDear was days away from his 18th birthday.
The office of Oklahoma District Attorney Richard Smothermon, which is prosecuting the case, did not return calls seeking comment for this story, nor did DeDear’s attorney.
On March 18, 2017, DeDear - who attended Durango High School – had left New Mexico around 4 a.m. to visit relatives in Arkansas, traveling alone in his guardian’s 1999 Ford F-350 truck.
Around 1:30 p.m., DeDear failed to stop on the Turner Turnpike (Interstate 44) between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, where traffic was at a standstill because of smoke from a grass fire that had closed the highway.
According to police reports, DeDear crashed into the back of a 2008 Saab, pushing that vehicle into two vehicles in front of it.
Three people died in the 2008 Saab SUV: Linda Irie, 50, and her two grandchildren, Brooklyn Newville, 9, and Jace Newville, 5. A third child, who was their cousin, Isabelle Anthony, 6, survived the crash.
The Norman, Oklahoma, family was reportedly traveling to buy a baby lamb to be used in Easter photo shoots for Irie’s locally owned photography studio that she ran with Brooklyn’s and Jace’s mother, Shanee.
No one else was seriously injured in the crash. Isabelle was flown to Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City where she was treated and released. DeDear also was taken to a hospital with no serious injuries.
DeDear has a court appearance Monday in Lincoln County, Oklahoma. It is unclear what penalties the DA’s office seeks, but one second-degree manslaughter charge can carry two to four years in a state penitentiary or up to one year in a county jail or a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both.
According to police records obtained by The Durango Herald through an open records request, authorities suspect DeDear was distracted by something while driving. DeDear did not slow down, causing the crash.
At the scene, DeDear gave differing accounts of what happened in the seconds before the crash.
He indicated to one officer that he may have passed out. He told another officer that he had taken a drink of Gatorade and when he looked up it was too late to stop.
“He was very inconsistent with his description of what happened,” Oklahoma State Patrol Trooper Jerrad Real wrote in his report. “He described that he felt like his head had been pushed down and when he looked up he was in an accident.”
Officers asked DeDear if he was on his cellphone, and he responded that he sent a text message a few minutes before the crash, and then received two messages from his grandmother and girlfriend while driving but he said he did not read those texts.
At the hospital, DeDear tested negative for any drugs or alcohol in his system.
According to the accident report, the line of sight on the highway was clear, and the stopped traffic should have been visible a mile away. No other vehicles moved or changed lanes before the crash, investigators reported.
Authorities determined DeDear was traveling 77 mph when he hit the stopped vehicles, and investigations at the scene found no signs of DeDear hitting his brakes moments before impact.
Investigation reports provided to the Herald concluded DeDear “was not devoting his full attention to driving,” warranting possible homicide charges.
Brooklyn and Jace died at the scene and had to be identified by their mother and father by clothing description. Irie was taken to a nearby hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
The victims’ family did not return calls for this story.
After the accident, Shawn Irie – Irie’s husband, and Brooklyn’s and Jace’s grandfather – started an advocacy group to stop distracted driving, called Put It Down. Irie offers public speaking events and fundraising tournaments for the cause.
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