More than six months have passed since a fiery crash took the lives of four Gretna High School students, and investigators still haven’t been able to identify the person or people who provided the alcohol that contributed to their deaths.
Four of the five girls involved in the June 17 crash near 180th Street and Platteview Road had alcohol in their blood, according to the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators have been seeking information about how the teenagers obtained alcohol that summer night.
Authorities have two people of interest, both of “student age,” in the investigation, Sarpy County Sheriff Jeff Davis said during a press conference Monday. But it’s possible, he said, that authorities never will be able to pin down who purchased alcohol for the teens.
“It’s possible we have an idea of where the alcohol came from and we just can’t prove it because we don’t have the right person to come forward and say, ‘Yeah, that’s what happened,’ ” Davis said.
The crash killed driver Abigail Barth, 16, Kloe Odermatt, 16, Addisyn Pfeifer, 16, and Alex Minardi, 15. Their friend and classmate Roan Brandon, 15, suffered burns and a broken collarbone in the crash. She was hospitalized, treated and released.
Authorities have spent more than 400 hours investigating nearly 100 tips in the wake of the crash, Davis said. In the process, officers served 22 search warrants and conducted 40 interviews.
As a result of the investigation, deputies in recent months have arrested 12 teenagers attempting to shoplift alcohol, issued three minor-in-possession citations and arrested one teen with a fake ID, Davis said.
“The (June crash) really has had no ill effect on juveniles wanting to or trying to consume alcohol or obtaining alcohol, which is extremely unfortunate,” Davis said.
The sheriff used Monday’s press conference to urge all parents of teens to be watchful for possible alcohol use by their children. Using water bottles to conceal clear alcohol, such as vodka, is a common practice among teens who drink, Davis said.
He said the Sheriffs’ Office is aware that over the summer, some teenagers in the area were selling bottles of water containing alcohol for $5 to $10 a bottle.
Parents should know passwords to their children’s social media accounts, phones and laptops, and should be on the lookout for fake IDs, Davis said.
The nearly 100 tips provided to investigators in the wake of the crash produced multiple names of people who may know something about the night of the crash, Davis said. Many of those people already had attorneys by the time officers contacted them.
Authorities have interviewed Roan Brandon, the survivor of the crash, about the crash itself. Davis said investigators have been unable to ask her questions about the alcohol because the family has hired an attorney.
Davis addressed a common rumor that the girls were at a party the night of the crash. He said a party was held that night, and two or three of the girls may have driven by to try to pick up a friend who was not there, but the girls never were present at the party.
Davis said he’s aware that some people wonder why authorities continue to push to find answers. Why not let the families of the dead girls grieve in peace?
“We can’t let that go for this reason: They have gone through an unbelievable experience that most of us can’t imagine how bad it is,” Davis said of the parents of the girls.
“Our job is to get to the bottom of it, but most importantly to see that nothing like that ever happens again.”
The reward for tips related to the crash is at $14,500.
People can call Crime Stoppers at 402-592-7867 or leave an anonymous tip at apps.sarpy.com/sheriff/crimestoppers/default.html.