St. Joseph County Police say they believe alcohol played a role in a deadly crash on S.R. 23 in Granger early Sunday morning.
Around 4:30 a.m., 18-year-old James Reeder was driving southbound on 23 near Adams Road when his car crossed the center line and hit an oncoming semi-trailer head on.
The semi’s cab caught fire, but responders were able to prevent the flames from spreading to the roughly 8,000 gallons of fuel the tanker was carrying.
The driver of the semi, 43-year-old Troy Massey of Coloma, was treated for back pain and minor injuries at the hospital.
Reeder was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt force trauma sustained during the accident.
S.R. 23 was blocked off for several hours Sunday as police investigated.
They say they found beer in Reeder’s truck, but won’t know for sure if he’d been drinking until toxicology reports come back in a few weeks.
According to the Cass County prosecutor’s office, it wouldn’t be the first time Reeder’s been caught drinking.
On March 14, he was arrested for possessing alcohol. More recently on May 20, police say Reeder was arrested for drinking and driving in Ontwa Township.
The prosecutor’s office has dropped all charges against the teen.
Lawrence schools Superintendent John Overley says he didn’t know of the drinking incidents, but they don’t reflect Reeder’s character.
“He was not a trouble maker at all,” Overley said. “He was a fun loving young man.”
Reeder was a standout student at Lawrence High School, where he was supposed to graduate with honors just ten hours after the crash.
Overley says the athlete was well-liked by his peers and teachers.
“People gravitated to him,” Overley said. “He was just a good kid to be around, always tried to make people happy.”
Overley says Reeder’s family is still in the process of making arrangements for the teen.
During Sunday’s graduation ceremony, classmates wore black patches in honor of Reeder. His chair sat empty during the ceremony.