Police say car in fatal accident did not have defective brakes

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Brakes on a car in which two teenage girls died Tuesday were in good working order, Ketchikan police said Wednesday.

A collision between a 1988 Honda Accord and a 1996 Dodge Ram pickup truck killed car driver Courtnie Tuinstra, 15, and passenger Chelsea Palmer, 15. Palmer's 16-year-old sister, Jamie Palmer, was seriously injured

Jamie Palmer was reported in stable condition Wednesday. Four people in the pickup truck also were hospitalized but have been released.

According to a preliminary police investigation, the car was headed downhill at high speed when it smashed into the pickup truck on a cross street, Tongass Avenue, which runs along the Ketchikan waterfront.

Jamie Palmer told an emergency medical technician after the accident that the car's brakes had failed and that Courtnie Tuinstra had unsuccessfully tried to stop with the car's emergency brake.

But Ketchikan Police Chief Grant Sirevog said mechanics found nothing wrong with the brakes on the car.

''We hired two certified mechanics to check the vehicle today,'' Sirevog said Wednesday. ''Everything is in proper order. The brakes function.''

Police now are considering driver inexperience as a possible cause, he said.

''We're not exactly sure what happened and why there were no brakes applied. It's kind of not making any sense,'' Sirevog said. A police officer will interview Jamie Palmer sometime soon, he said.

Sirevog on Tuesday said he did not know if Tuinstra had a drivers license. She was old enough to have a drivers permit, but if she had one, she should not have been driving without a licensed driver at least 21 years old, he said.

Andrew Stokely, 28, was driving the truck. Michael Bjur, Michael Lawler and Michael Slenkamp, all 15, were passengers.

Friends of the two dead girls created an impromptu memorial of cards, candles and flowers near where the Honda came to rest after the accident. Memorial funds have been established in their names.

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