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Teen driver: If not for police, my friends would be alive

  • Story Highlights
  • Two crash survivors say they pleaded with police that their friends were missing
  • Police: Teens said they dropped off friends before crash; teen denies saying that
  • Officers say they looked for friends, but victim's dad found bodies after police left
  • Driver disputes police assertion that alcohol was involved in crash
  • Next Article in U.S. »
By Thom Patterson
CNN
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GARY, Indiana (CNN) -- Darius Moore says he feels vindicated after listening to police dispatch recordings that he says prove his story about a car crash that killed two of his closest friends.

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Darius Moore says he's fighting off guilt because he was behind the wheel the night his two friends died.

Moore, 17, was driving a 1994 Chevrolet Caprice early September 15 when it careened through a guardrail and into a ravine, killing 18-year-olds Brandon Smith and Dominique Green and injuring himself and 17-year-old DeAndre Anderson. None was wearing a seat belt, Moore said, and all were thrown from the car.

Many of the events that followed the accident are in dispute. Police have released the dispatch recordings but have not released an accident report, and investigations are continuing.

Moore said he and Anderson, bleeding from their injuries, pleaded with police who arrived at the crash scene that their two friends were missing. Police said Moore and Anderson told officers they may have dropped Smith and Green off before the crash.

Hours after police left the scene, Smith's father, Arthur Smith, found his son's body tangled in underbrush and Green's body a short distance away.

Moore said he doesn't agree with the Lake County, Indiana, coroner's office finding that Smith and Green died instantly.

"I'm angry at police because I thought they could have found my friends, and they probably would be alive today if [police] had just done their job," he said.

"I just don't believe that they checked," Moore said. "My friend Brandon Smith's father went down there and checked and found them in five minutes, so I don't know why [police] couldn't do the same." Video Watch Moore say police didn't look for his pals »

Cmdr. Sam Roberts, a Gary police spokesman, questioned how Moore would "be aware of the efforts the police took, when he was hospitalized."

Roberts said officers searched the area of the crash after Moore and Anderson were taken away for medical treatment.

"We have an officer's report indicating that a search was done, and the report also includes areas that were covered in the search," Roberts said. "One officer indicated he walked the berm line along the site."

Moore denied police claims that both surviving teens had been drinking. He said "there was no alcohol in the car."

However, police have said blood-alcohol tests of Moore and Anderson taken at the hospital show one of them measured .09 percent, which exceeds Indiana's legal limit of .08. The other test measured .05 percent. Because the teens are minors, police would not reveal whether the driver, Moore, was the one above the legal limit, Roberts said. The state legal drinking age is 21.

Police suspect speed was a factor in the crash. Moore said a tire blew out while he was accelerating to just 30 or 40 mph.

"I wasn't even going that fast at the time that the tire blew out," Moore said.

"The blowout -- I felt it happen. I don't exactly know what tire it was, but when the tire blew out, the car turned ... and it went over the median," Moore said. "I felt glass -- me going up against the ceiling -- I guess the car was flipping over."

He said the crash knocked him unconscious for a short time.

"I woke up face-down in the dirt, and I just turned over and I just started praying because I didn't know where I was at, or what happened."

Moore said he quickly found Anderson.

"I told him I was going for help," Moore said.

Moore managed to walk up a ravine to the road to try to flag down a driver, who didn't stop but did call 911. Moore said he also knocked on doors at nearby homes searching for help, but no one offered aid.

The responding officers said the teens told them the missing boys had been dropped off earlier. Roberts said the dispatch recordings don't contradict that account.

"Those reports are not evident on the tape," Roberts said. "However, we got evidence from officers that said that is indeed what might have occurred."

Two police investigations into the crash are ongoing, including an internal Gary Police Department probe and an independent investigation by the Lake County sheriff.

The radio dispatch recordings released by authorities included a comment by an unidentified officer who said: "He says he had two other guys with him in the car. They might still be in the car. You might want to check." Hear the 911 recordings »

Arthur Smith said police were using the alcohol allegations to "deflect" the issue away from the fact that police "made a mistake" when they failed to find the bodies.

On Thursday, Arthur Smith told CNN that his son and Green might have survived if they had been found in time. "We don't know that because they didn't do their job," he said.

Roberts said police can act only on the information they're given. Officers found two injured teens, called for medical help, recovered the car and initiated an accident report, he said.

"So based on this course of action, I believe they acted properly," Roberts said.

No one has been charged as a result of the accident, and no police officers have been reprimanded, Roberts said.

Police Chief Thomas Houston publicly offered his "heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the family and loved ones." But the Smiths said he has not reached out to them personally.

"He should resign," Arthur Smith said.

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Moore said he fights off feelings of guilt because he was behind the wheel during the crash that killed his close friends.

"A lot of people tell me that it wasn't my fault, that there was nothing that I could do," said Moore, a senior at Gary's West Side High School. "I realize that it wasn't my fault, but sometimes I feel like it was -- it really wasn't -- but it's just how I feel sometimes." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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