The Edmond Sun

March 28, 2013

Police release findings in February fatality crash

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — An 18-year-old killed in a February crash was possibly under the influence of an intoxicating substance, according to the state medical examiner’s office.

Thursday morning the Edmond Police Department released the final report filed by Officer James Hamm regarding the crash, which occurred during the evening of Feb. 18 on Coltrane Road between 15th Street and 33rd Street.

Police spokeswoman Jenny Monroe said the final medical examiner’s toxicology report came back to department traffic investigators this week. Monroe said the cause of the crash, which killed Landon Gregory Burger, 18, of Edmond, was the driver was believed to be under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

Burger attended a local Catholic school through seventh grade when he transferred to Yukon Public Schools. He was a senior at Edmond Memorial High School. He had a passion for music and dancing, according to his obituary. He also played several sports, including football, baseball, track and especially basketball.

“But above all, Landon loved his family and friends,” his family wrote.

At about 8:26 p.m. on Feb. 18, Hamm was dispatched to the scene and he located the crash in the 1900 block of South Coltrane. A fellow officer told him a male, later identified as the victim, was pinned in a vehicle and he appeared to be deceased, Hamm stated.

Moments later, members of the Edmond Fire Department and EMSA arrived and began to assist the victim.

Hamm stated he spoke with a motorist who was driving on Coltrane when she saw illuminated tail lights on a vehicle in the tree line on the west side of the road. She did not see what happened before the crash.

Hamm stated that during his inspection at the scene, tire marks led him to an area of impact by the 2004 Jeep Liberty with a tree. No other marks were found. It appeared that after the vehicle left the road it struck a large tree stump, which caused it to spin, overturn and then collide with a tree before coming to a rest, the report stated.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene at about 8:33 p.m., Hamm stated. He was later transported to the medical examiner’s office.

As officers worked the scene, an officer said she found two small plastic baggies and a full can of compressed air near the vehicle, Hamm stated. One of the baggies contained a green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana residue, the report stated. Near the vehicle, Hamm located a second can of compressed air, which was empty.

In his narrative, Hamm described the effects of “huffing,” inhaling compressed air to reach a temporary level of intoxication.

Despite the name “canned air,” the cans actually contain gases that are much easier to compress into liquids, such as difluoroethane, trifluoroethane or tetrafluoroethane, Hamm stated.

According to published reports, different inhalants yield different effects, yet generally speaking, because inhaled chemicals are absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and distributed quickly to the brain and other organs, the effects of inhaling can be severe, Hamm stated. Within minutes the user experiences feelings of intoxication and may become dizzy, have headaches, abdominal pain, limb spasms, lack of coordination, loss of control, hallucinations and impaired judgment.

Hamm stated he began to form a theory that the victim was possibly under the influence of an intoxicating substance due to no other plausible explanation. He stated he found no evidence the victim attempted to brake or correct his path. Skies were clear at the time of the crash.

The substance 1,1-Difluoroethane was found in the victim’s femoral and heart blood, Hamm stated. The victim more than likely in “an extreme level of intoxication lost consciousness” due to inhaling the substance, which caused him to veer off the road, Hamm stated. The official cause of death was blunt force trauma, according to the ME’s report.

An employee at a local Walmart said the victim had been seen buying air duster products several times, Hamm stated. Several witnesses said they had seen air duster cans in the victim’s room, but they were not aware of the potential effects, the report stated. | 341-2121, ext. 108