Columbus teen dies in crash

A three-vehicle crash just west of Clifford claimed the life of a 17-year-old Columbus driver and injured three of his friends.

The driver, Keegan L. Phillips, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident at Marr Road and County Road 550N at 11:53 p.m. Thursday, said Clayton Nolting, Bartholomew County chief deputy coroner.

Three passengers in Phillips’ vehicle, all listed as his friends on social media, were injured and transported to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Nolting said.

Tierra Miller, 19, Columbus, who was seated in the back seat on the driver’s side behind Phillips, was transported by Lifeline helicopter from the scene to Methodist Hospital, Nolting said. Indiana State Police said Miller’s injuries at the scene were initially believed to be life threatening.

Blake Sinclair, 18, Columbus, who was in the front passenger seat, was first taken to Columbus Regional Hospital and later transferred to Methodist by ambulance, Nolting said. Rachel Turner, 18, who was in the back passenger-side seat, was also taken to the Columbus hospital and later transferred to Methodist by ambulance.

Sinclair was listed in serious condition at Methodist on Friday, with Turner and Miller listed in good condition, Methodist hospital officials.

Phillips, who was wearing a seat belt, died of multiple fractures suffered from blunt force trauma to the head, neck and chest, Nolting said. Phillips’ injuries were from the impact of the collision being on the driver’s side door of the 2001 Pontiac he was driving, Nolting said.

The teenagers had all attended Columbus East at one time, although they were not current students, said Rochelle House, Columbus East High School director of counseling. Phillips had not attended the high school for more than a year, and the other three had not attended for at least a semester, she said.

Phillips had worked at the Amazing Joe’s restaurant in Columbus a few months ago clearing tables and was well-liked, said Nick Grams, a managing partner with the local eatery.

Indiana State Police said Phillips was driving east on County Road 550N and stopped at the stop sign at Marr Road before pulling into the path of a 2000 Chevrolet Blazer driven by Sheila I. Lee, 47, Columbus, who was traveling south on Marr.

The collision forced Lee’s vehicle into the path of a 2004 Toyota Rav4, driven by Amy M. Fetter, 44, Columbus, who was traveling north on Marr.

Lee and Fetter were treated for minor injuries at Columbus Regional Hospital, Indiana State Police Sgt. Stephen Wheeles said.

It is unclear whether drugs, alcohol or speed played any role in the crash, but police may pursue toxicology testing, Wheeles said.

The speed limit on Marr Road is listed at 45 mph.

The vehicles driven by Lee and Fetter had the right of way on Marr Road and were not required to stop at the intersection with County Road 550N, Wheeles said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.