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Published: Wednesday, 5/7/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Student driver didn't engage brake in fatal crash


The investigation into an April traffic crash that resulted in the deaths of a student driver and his instructor found that the young driver did not engage the brake pedal as he approached a stop sign.

The report was completed on Monday.

The Key Driving School, Inc. vehicle had a passenger-side brake pedal, but officials said extensive damage to the vehicle prevented them from testing its functionality, said Highway Patrol Lt. William Bowers.

The lieutenant said the vehicle was inspected on Nov. 19 and the brake was operational.

Killed in the April 28 crash at Heller and Neapolis-Waterville roads were Joseph Franks, 16, of Swanton, and his driving instructor, Thomas Smith, 48, of Whitehouse.

The driving-school vehicle was southbound on Heller when it failed to stop at a stop sign and was struck by an eastbound minivan on Neapolis-Waterville.

The minivan was driven by Kathleen Woods, 48, of Swanton.

Lieutenant Bowers said Ms. Woods told investigators she was talking on her cell phone at the time of the crash and “never saw the vehicle coming.”

No evasive action was taken by either vehicle.

No charges were filed as a result of the crash.

— Taylor Dungjen

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