This article was posted to SouthBendTribune.com on Feb. 20, 2007.
Brothers killed in collision with each other
Authorities say it’s a coincidence Decatur men’s automobiles hit head-on.
Tribune Staff Writer
PAW PAW — Two brothers from Decatur were killed Sunday when their autos collided near Paw Paw, police reported.
Investigation was continuing Monday, but officers with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department said it appeared to be a coincidence that the autos driven by James West, 33, and Jessie West, 24, collided head-on in the 70000 block of 39th Street in Paw Paw Township.
Not only were the victims brothers, but they lived together in Decatur, police said.
Sgt. Virg Franks said interviews with family members, friends and co-workers of the West brothers left a strong impression that the two got along well and would not have intentionally committed such an act.
Based on those interviews, Franks said police also ruled out a game of “chicken,” in which motorists drive toward one another to see who veers away first.
“That would have been completely out of character,” Franks said. “There was no evidence that contributed to the crash.”
Officers reported that James West was driving north on 39th Street about 3:15 p.m. when he lost control on the snow-covered road. The auto crossed the center line and traveled into the path of Jessie West’s oncoming vehicle, police said.
Franks said it appeared from the scene the right tires on James West’s vehicle dropped off the paved portion of the road, causing his auto to skid into his brother’s lane of traffic. Snow perhaps contributed to the car traveling off the pavement, Franks said.
He said Jessie West apparently was driving home after completing his shift at a restaurant in the village of Paw Paw, Franks said. He said he was unaware where James West was headed.
James West was ejected from his auto and was lying on the road when officers arrived. Jessie West was pinned in the wreckage of his car and had to be extricated by rescue workers using hydraulic equipment, police said.
Officers said both were dead at the scene. Neither was wearing a seat belt, police said. [Note from host of this web log: see comment below regarding the validity of the statement regarding seatbelts.]
Although authorities have yet to determine if drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash, Franks said he didn’t notice the odor of alcohol or containers of alcohol in either vehicle.
He said the accident was one of the most tragic his department has investigated.