Two Missouri boys who swiped their grandmother’s car for a rural joyride are dead after the vehicle went airborne, struck a tree, and burst into flames while they remained trapped inside.
The crash occurred in a heavily wooded and unincorporated area of Jackson County, near Independence, Missouri on Friday, authorities said.
“Obviously this is a horrific crash,” Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol told Oxygen.com. “Any time we’re investigating a crash and there’s a fatality involving a child, it’s extremely difficult. They’re two kids, they’re brothers, just the overall scope of what happened, just makes it even more tragic.”
Earlier that day, the two children, who police didn’t identify, supposedly took the keys to their grandmother’s 2007 Buick LaCrosse. As the brothers drove eastbound on a rural stretch of road, troopers suspect they lost control of the car, and plummeted into a creek bed, striking a tree. The sedan, which came to rest on its top, subsequently caught on fire.
“The two kids took the grandmother’s vehicle without her knowledge or permission,” Lowe said. “As they were driving in the field, they lost control of the vehicle, they went into a creek bed and when they struck the creek bed, the vehicle did catch on fire and the kids were trapped inside and pronounced dead.”
Fire crews arrived shortly after and extinguished the blaze. A neighbor, who spotted the children driving earlier, had previously notified authorities, Lowe said.
“The vehicle was completely destroyed — there were several indicators of violent impact,” he explained. “It was recognizable but it was still heavy, heavy fire damage.”
Authorities suspect the 7-year-old boy was operating the vehicle. The brothers didn’t appear to have been wearing seatbelts.
Investigators didn’t specify how fast the sedan was traveling upon impact. However, at one point, the vehicle became airborne, according to a crash report obtained by Oxygen.com.
Lowe said highway patrol crash investigators are still scouring the crash site for evidence and reconstructing the scene.
It’s unclear if the children survived the initial collision or if they perished in the blaze that later engulfed their grandmother’s Buick.
“We don’t know yet,” Lowe said. “They were taken to the Jackson County coroner’s office and they’re doing an autopsy to determine that.”
Authorities cautioned parents and caretakers to keep car keys out of reach of children.
“Obviously something like this shouldn’t have happened,” Lowe stated. “Put the key where the kids can’t reach it, put the key where they don’t know where it is. Just them not having access to it is going to be the first deterrent. We want to educate those kids being in or around a car is dangerous and to leave that to the adults.”
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation. No charges have been handed down in the case as of yet. A sheriff’s spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
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