Investigators work to determine cause of crash that killed 5 - KCTV5

Investigators work to determine cause of crash that killed 5

Posted: Updated:
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Investigators are working to determine what caused a young mother's car to come to a sudden halt in traffic on Interstate 435 before a semi plowed into the back of the vehicle, killing the driver and four passengers.

Shante Hopkins' family is now planning her funeral, along with the funerals of her three small children: Ja Riah, 2, Ja Nijah, who would have turned 2 years old in February, and 7-month-old Tay Shawn. Also killed in the crash was 17-year-old Dominique Johnson, who was dating Hopkins' brother.

Both families want to know if the semi's driver could have done more to prevent the crash.

"Our attention is going to be on trying to figure out what happened to the car if we can and why they were forced to stop in that lane and what options if any were available to that truck driver," said Sgt. Bill Mahoney of the Kansas City Police Department's accident investigation unit.

Investigators are looking at whether the car experienced a catastrophic mechanical failure or if it ran out of gas. Witnesses said the car was traveling at just a couple of miles per hour when it stopped in the outermost lane of southbound Interstate 435 near Eastwood Trafficway. The crash occurred about 5 p.m. Saturday.

KCTV5 was there on Monday as investigators took pictures and examined Hopkins' mangled 1996 Mazda Protege. The semi was released to its owner on Monday. The semi driver was hauling furniture from Minnesota to Texas, and he wasn't impaired when the crash occurred.

"The families deserve answers and that's what we are working toward right now," Mahoney said.

Hopkins' grieving parents, Riccardo Smith and Paulette Kelley, desperately want those answers from Mahoney and his team of investigators.

"We've just been grieving. That's all. Trying to put the whole scenario put together," Kelley said.

Smith is haunted by memories of Christmas morning.

"My grandson just had his first Christmas but he never got to spend his first New Year's," Smith said, adding that he cherished his grandchildren more than his own life. "A family shouldn't go through that."

He said that you should hold your family tight and have your vehicle checked out before taking a road trip.

"I wouldn't want this to happen to nobody's family ever again," Smith said.

Smith and Kelley are grateful for the support. Nearly $3,500 has been raised for their loved ones' funerals. Nearly $1,000 has been raised for Johnson's funeral. Click here for the GoFundMe.com page for the Hopkins family. Click here for the GoFundMe.com page created for Johnson's family.

"Family. Love. Support. That's what it's about in situations like this," Smith said.

Hopkins lived with her parents. She left her 8-year-old son in their care when she took her younger children to Kansas City to see their father for the holidays. The family along with Johnson were returning from Kansas City to Warrensburg when the crash happened.

Hopkins shouldn't have been on the interstate driving. Since 2010, her license had repeatedly been suspended by the state of Missouri.

Kansas City police stopped Hopkins in 2010 during a routine traffic stop. She was cited for not having a valid driver's license and no proof of insurance. In September 2010, she was convicted and her license was suspended.

Between March 2011 and October 2014, she would be stopped five more times by Grandview, Independence, Kansas City and Warrensburg police. In addition to not having a valid license or insurance during each of the stops, she was also cited in Independence in March 2012 for a turn-signal violation and in April 2012 for speeding.

The most recent stop in the fall by Warrensburg police included failure to use lights. Her license was again suspended in December.

Mahoney said the investigation won't look at Hopkins' driving history, saying that has nothing to do with the crash.

"We've collected a fair amount of evidence and we just haven't put it together and interpreted what it means," he said.

If your vehicle stalls on the highway, experts say you must react quickly especially at night when other drivers may not see you.

Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Sgt. Bill Lowe said to attempt to drive to the nearest exit.

"We want you out of the roadway. That is the most dangerous place you can be," Lowe said, adding that a shoulder doesn't provide sanctuary.

Be sure and turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers and attempt to get out of the car and stand off to the side of the road.

"It's scary and it's dangerous. Whatever it takes to get you out of that car even if you have to grab all the kids at one time," Lowe said.

It can take a semi driver the length of two basketball courts to stop at highway speeds.

KCTV5's Jeanene Kiesling, Amy Anderson, Heather Staggers and Brandon Richard reported this story.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved

  • Investigators work to determine cause of crash that killed 5More>>

  • Families mourn as 1 woman, 4 kids killed in crash

    Families mourn as 1 woman, 4 kids killed in crash

    Tuesday, March 3 2015 4:26 PM EST2015-03-03 21:26:35 GMT
    Families and loved ones are bearing unspeakable pain as crash on Interstate 435 has claimed the lives of a young mother, her three children and a teenage friend. The devastated family members have shared photos and memories on social media.More >
    Families and loved ones are bearing unspeakable pain as crash on Interstate 435 has claimed the lives of a young mother, her three children and a teenage friend. The devastated family members have shared photos and memories on social media.
    More >
Powered by Frankly
KCTV 5 News

Online Public File:
KCTV  KSMO

Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2018, KCTV; Kansas City, MO. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.