The Michigan teenager killed on the morning of his graduation when his pickup truck collided with a semi on State Road 23 in Granger was intoxicated according to a new report released late Friday afternoon by the St. Joseph County, IN Sheriff’s Department.
18-year-old James Reeder, a student from Lawrence, Mich. was southbound when his pickup crossed the centerline at Birch Road just south of the Indiana-Michigan line and hit the northbound semi around 4:30 a.m. on June 3.
Police Lieutenant Matt Blank says toxicology results show Reeder tested positive for the presence of marijuana in his system and had a blood alcohol level slightly more than twice the legal limit of .08%. However, Blank says the exact figure for the level of alcohol is not being released right now due to the ongoing investigation.
The toxicology results for the driver of the tanker truck, 43-year-old Troy Massey of Coloma, Mich. appear to be normal – no indication of alcohol or other intoxicants.
The tanker was carrying 8,000 gallons of fuel and because of the gas spill, SR 23 at Birch Road was closed to traffic for more than nine hours. However, the tanker portion of the semi did not catch fire, meaning an even larger disaster was averted thanks to the efforts of firefighters.
Lawrence School superintendent John Overly said an empty chair was left for Reeder at graduation that Sunday afternoon. His graduation cap and National Honor Society cloak were draped over that chair and a moment of silence was observed in his honor during the commencement ceremony.
"James was a very charismatic young man," said Overly. "Very athletic. He wrestled, ran track, played football for a couple of years. Very intelligent young man. He was planning on going to Western Michigan University to major in chemical engineering. He was just a good kid."
Police say they found a case of beer in Reeder's car.
Cass County police say the teen was arrested for drinking and driving in Edwardsburg the prior week, but he was still legally allowed to drive because he had not gone to court.
He was also arrested for minor possession back in March.