Felony Charges Won't Be Filed In Gas Pump Fire Death
College Student Burned To Death While Getting Gas
12:58 AM, Mar 19, 2009
A woman accused in a fatal crash at a Colorado Springs gas station will not face felony charges, partly because alcohol wasn't involved, police said. Kelli Renae McKay, 29, of Colorado Springs has been cited with careless driving involving a death, a Class 1 misdemeanor, in the Tuesday crash that killed Whitney Hendrickson, 18. Lt. David Whitlock said a more serious charge, such as vehicular homicide, would require police to show that McKay demonstrated a "wanton or a willful disregard" for people or property. He said police couldn't make that case. Hendrickson, of Colorado Springs, was filling a minivan with gas when the crash occurred at about 12:40 p.m. Tuesday. Authorities said McKay was driving an SUV that struck a pickup parked at a gas pump. The pickup toppled the pump, pinning Hendrickson against her minivan. The gas pump then caught fire and exploded. Witnesses said people who tried to help Hendrickson were driven back by the heat.The witnesses said Hendrickson was screaming "Help me! Help me! I'm going to die.""She was frozen in there, between the gas pumps and her car," said Michael Horvat, a man who works across the street from the store. "She was holding her face. Flames were all around her. She never got out." Police said Wednesday that surveillance video taken from inside the convenience store verified that the fatal fire flared within moments of the crash. "There was no delay between impact and the flames beginning," police Lt. Dave Whitlock said. "It was almost instantaneous." Preliminary testing showed the SUV appeared to be functioning properly at the time of the wreck, but a full mechanical evaluation is pending, police said. Family members said Hendrickson was home on spring break from Grinnell College in Iowa. Her friend Julie Podair, a Grinnell student from Appleton, Wis., was in the minivan but escaped without injury. A memorial service is planned for Friday afternoon at Shove Memorial Chapel in Colorado Springs.