Any charges from fatal crash investigations?

Mike Genet

Several months after two car crashes claimed three lives in Independence, no charges have been filed in either case. 

In both cases, the offending driver survived the crash. Independence police say waiting for requested medical records delayed moving forward on the cases. Investigators submitted one of the cases to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office a couple weeks ago. 

The fatal crashes happened Dec. 31, 2020 and Feb. 10, 2021. The latter case, a collision that killed two teenagers, has been forwarded for possible charges. 

“Much of the delay may be attributed to a request for medical records. It can take a substantial amount of time to receive the records from the administrative clearinghouse used by hospitals,” IPD Sgt. Jason Petersen said. 

The Feb. 10 crash happened in the evening on Little Blue Parkway, just south of Truman Road. According to police, the driver of a 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe was southbound when he crossed the grass median of the four-lane boulevard and hit a 2019 Nissan Sentra. Alcohol appeared to be a factor. 

The Sentra driver, 17-year-old Skyelar Kelly of Oak Grove, died later that evening. A passenger, 17-year-old Izaiah Salyer of Oak Grove and earlier of Independence, died a couple days late. Two other passengers suffered serious injuries. 

The Tahoe driver was released from the hospital within a couple of days, police said. No person in either vehicle appeared to have been wearing seatbelts. 

The Dec. 31 crash happened in the morning at Blue Ridge Boulevard and 31st Street. According to police, the driver of a 1999 Toyota Rav4 heading east on 31st didn’t heed the stop sign at Blue Ridge and hit a 2008 GMC Sierra that was northbound on Blue Ridge.  

The GMC driver, 36-year-old David Ronkoski, died later at hospital. Police said he apparently was not wearing a seat belt. 

Besides medical records delays, Petersen said staffing can affect accident investigations. 

Independence police have been dealing for months with various staffing issues amplified by the pandemic, with quarantines, retirements and lack of qualified candidates to fill all available positions. As a temporary remedy, Petersen said, the IPD’s traffic unit was split up to help with patrol for four months at the end of 2020 into 2021.  

The two fatal crashes in question occurred during that time. 

Mike Mansur, spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, said that in both the Kansas City and Independence offices, certain prosecutors are assigned vehicle crashes to evaluate for possible charges, and they later take their cases to a committee of prosecutors to ultimately make a decision.