3rd high school runner struck by truck dies; driver’s son killed in crash day before hit-and-run

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Combined ShapeCaption
Drunk driver mourning the loss of son killed in accident, crashes into high schoolers; 2 dead, 4 injured

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“He finished his race in heaven this morning.”

With those words, the family of 18-year-old Kolby Crum, a senior at Moore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, announced that he died Saturday morning, 12 days after an allegedly drunken driver -- who was mourning the loss of his own son -- smashed his truck into Crum and six other track and cross-country team members out for a run.

Max Leroy Townsend, 57, of Tuttle, was taken into custody about three blocks from where the Feb. 3 crash took place. A police report obtained last week by several media organizations, including The Associated Press, indicated that Townsend was going 79 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone when he crossed two lanes of traffic, struck a parked vehicle and veered onto a sidewalk, where he struck the group of teens.

He showed signs of impairment at the scene but toxicology results will take several weeks, authorities said.

"It's awful," Moore Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said, according to the AP. "We've dealt with some really tough things, but that's the worst ... seeing those kids laying there."

Explore>> Related story: Oklahoma man facing manslaughter, DUI charges after plowing truck into high school students

Lewis told KFOR in Oklahoma City that security cameras outside several nearby homes helped pinpoint how fast Townsend was driving at the time of the crash. The report on the crash showed the point of impact for each of the students struck.

One student was thrown 169 feet after being hit, KFOR reported.

Townsend’s own son, Cody Townsend, 28, of Tuttle, was killed in a crash the day before he struck the group of students, authorities have confirmed. The two fatal crashes happened about a mile from one another.

Max Townsend is being held in a Cleveland County jail on two counts of first-degree manslaughter, four counts of personal injury accident while driving under the influence and seven counts leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, according to jail records. Each of the charges is a felony.

As of Monday morning, he remained jailed with bail set at $1.2 million. The criminal charges are expected to be amended to reflect Crum’s death.

Dustin Horstkoetter, director of safety and security for Moore Public Schools, said during a Feb. 4 news conference that the student-athletes were preparing for a run on a sidewalk near the high school when they were "violently struck by a vehicle." Senior Rachel Freeman, 17, died at the scene.

Sophomore Yuridia Martinez, 16, died early the next morning, Horstkoetter said. At that point, Crum was listed in critical condition.

KFOR reported that Crum suffered traumatic brain injuries when he was struck. He was left comatose and needing a respirator to breathe following a series of strokes.

Three other students, Ashton Baza, Shiloh Hutchinson and Joseph White, have been released from the hospital after being treated for a range of broken bones, according to the news station. White, who was Freeman’s boyfriend, also suffered a concussion, bleeding on the brain and a bruised lung.

The AP reported that a seventh student was injured at the scene but was taken by personal vehicle to a hospital. Moore school district officials identified the student as Chance Marlett.

Moore Public Schools Superintendent Robert Romines said Moore High School students who witnessed the devastating hit-and-run sprang into action, administering first aid and CPR in an effort to save their classmates. According to a column in the Enid News & Eagle, two Moore students also took the keys from the ignition of Townsend's truck following the crash.

The newspaper reported that witnesses said Crum, who lay critically injured, told his fellow classmates to tend to the other injured students first.

"Their actions were short of heroic," a visibly distraught Romines said of those who rendered aid to their fallen classmates. "So, very grateful to our students at Moore High School.

“Obviously, our community is devastated. We’re hurting but we are embracing one another and doing that well.”

Watch the Feb. 4 news conference held by Moore police and school district officials below. 

He called the crash an “unspeakable tragedy” but said the school community would continue to hold one another up and grieve together. The district provided 16 of its own counselors to help students, faculty and staff process the situation and brought another 14 in from neighboring school systems.

Counselors were helping students at the elementary and middle schools, where siblings of those injured and killed are students. Therapy dogs were brought in to help, Romines said.

A vigil was also held at Moore High the evening of Feb. 4 for the students killed and hurt.

"Keep our students, our staff and our families in your thoughts and prayers (as) we're trying to process this unthinkable tragedy," Romines said as he fought back tears.

In discussing details of the crash itself, Lewis said patrol officers were called to the scene near the high school around 3:30 p.m. Feb. 3. When they arrived, they found carnage and, about three blocks away, Max Townsend and his red pickup truck.

At the time of the Feb. 4 news conference, Lewis said investigators were still trying to determine why the crash occurred. The crash report released about a week later indicated that after striking the teens, Townsend continued driving on the sidewalk before veering back across the lanes of traffic and into a yard.

According to the AP, he struck several other vehicles before coming to a stop.

Combined ShapeCaption
The Ford pickup truck driven by Max Townsend the afternoon of Feb. 3, 2020, is pictured near the scene in Moore, Okla., where he is accused of driving into a group of seven high school track runners, killing three of the students. Townsend, 57, lost his own son in an unrelated crash the day before, police say.

Credit: Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP

The Ford pickup truck driven by Max Townsend the afternoon of Feb. 3, 2020, is pictured near the scene in Moore, Okla., where he is accused of driving into a group of seven high school track runners, killing three of the students. Townsend, 57, lost his own son in an unrelated crash the day before, police say.

Credit: Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP

Combined ShapeCaption
The Ford pickup truck driven by Max Townsend the afternoon of Feb. 3, 2020, is pictured near the scene in Moore, Okla., where he is accused of driving into a group of seven high school track runners, killing three of the students. Townsend, 57, lost his own son in an unrelated crash the day before, police say.

Credit: Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP

Credit: Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman via AP

Joe Gonzales, who was babysitting his grandson at the time of the crash, told the AP he heard Townsend crash into his son's car and went outside, staying with Townsend until police officers arrived.

"He was just talking to himself, looking for his phone, and said 'I just lost my son,'" Gonzales said.

According to Fox25 in Oklahoma City, Cody Townsend was killed Feb. 2 when he rear-ended a vehicle and lost control of his own car, which flipped. His fatal crash was still under investigation when his father struck the Moore High track students.

Max Townsend’s daughter, Cortney Townsend, declined to speak about her father’s crash when contacted by the AP.

"I just don't think right now is a good time," Cortney Townsend said in the days after the incident.

She has not spoken about the incident on social media, either, but her Facebook page is filled with memories of her late brother, who she described as "the kindest, most uplifting person."

"Anyone who knew Cody knew what a kind person he was. He always was trying to help people; he went out of his way for people," Cortney Townsend wrote.

She wrote on Feb. 8 about going out and riding a four-wheeler in his memory.

"I love you Cody Townsend. I was truly blessed to have such an amazing brother and best friend," she wrote.

The slain high school students were also mourned heavily on social media.

"Kolby has left his legacy with us -- that of kindness, strength and inspiration," Romines wrote in a statement announcing his death. "Please continue to keep the families of Kolby Crum, Rachel Freeman, and Yuridia Martinez in your thoughts and prayers. I ask that you also continue to support our students who were injured and are physically recuperating -- Joseph White, Shiloh Hutchinson, Ashton Baza and Chance Marlett."

A statement on a page called Prayers for Kolby, which was set up as he fought for his life, also announced his death with "immeasurable grief and sorrow."

"He impacted the lives around him in positive ways every day. He is so loved by so many and will be deeply missed," the statement read. "Please pray for peace that surpasses all understanding for his family and friends as they grieve the tremendous and devastating loss of this precious young man."

Martinez's obituary describes her as a competitive girl who, besides running track, also played volleyball and softball. She also loved to bake.

"She was very involved and loved to serve in her youth group at Sacred Heart Catholic Church," her obituary reads. "She always had a smile on her face and was very playful and was very friendly.

“Yuridia loved watching movies. She loved doing her nails and her hair, and always wore it straight. Yuridia wanted to be a hairstylist. She will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved her.”

In a statement from the Martinez family following the teen’s death, they said she was passionate about helping pregnant women who were homeless or in need. They said she “had a heart for service and helping people in need.”

"We are living in a horrible dream that we can't wake up from," the Martinez family's statement said, according to KFOR. "We were blessed for 16 years with an amazing baby girl who filled our home and our lives with joy and fun and beauty.

“She loved her friends and adored her sisters. This is so difficult. We miss her very much. Please continue to pray for us, for Yuridia and for the children and families suffering this loss.”

Freeman was also described as a competitor, but as someone who was always encouraging those around her.

"Rachel loved life and loved people. She thrived on connecting with others," her obituary reads.

Her father, Michael Freeman, wrote the day after her death that everyone asking what they could do for the family could honor his daughter by following her example: to always smile, to love those who at times are "unlovable," to find a purpose in life and to "take to heart Psalm 39:4: 'LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.'"

"Yes, you all can do something for us," Michael Freeman wrote. "Something that will mean more to us than anything else. You all can make Rachel's death matter by taking her life to heart, and fill the lives of those around you with joy."

Last week, Freeman wrote about the man who struck and killed his daughter, Martinez and Crum.

"Some have asked what my feelings are toward Townsend," he wrote on Facebook. "I can honestly say I've spent very little time thinking about him, his condition or his motives at the time. The criminal justice system is doing its job right now, and the investigation continues.

“The Moore Police Department and others are working hard to develop and present the strongest evidence possible, and I support the strongest sentence that can be handed down. Mr. Townsend has clearly demonstrated that he is incapable of ever living free without being a danger to society.”

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