Metro-East News

Driver in Madison County crash that killed teen may have been on his phone, documents say

Trinity Buel, 17, was killed in a car crash Feb. 17 in Alton.
Trinity Buel, 17, was killed in a car crash Feb. 17 in Alton. Provided

Police were requesting more information from cellphone providers to determine if the driver in a crash that killed his passenger, a 17-year-old Alton girl, was on his phone at the time of the crash.

Just after midnight Feb. 17, Trinity Buel was in the passenger seat of a 1996 Jeep Cherokee when it collided with a 2005 Cadillac SRX on Homer Adams Parkway and Buckmaster. Buel had been coming home from her job at the Alton Steak 'n Shake when the crash occurred.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found Buel unresponsive on the road as another person performed CPR on her, according to a search warrant affidavit filed to get information from the driver's phone. She was transported to St. Anthony's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 12:31 a.m.

The driver of the Jeep told officers Buel was giving him directions when the Cadillac suddenly appeared, and he was unable to avoid the crash. Police requested records of the driver's texting and call history, as well as GPS information and application usage history in the search warrant.

During the reconstruction of the crash, officers did not find any skid marks from tires that would have indicated sudden braking, according to the affidavit. Failure to react to a hazard can "sometimes be correlated to distracted driving," Alton Officer Daniel Ludwig wrote in the affidavit.

The Jeep's driver left the crash scene on foot and was later found with the help of his parents, according to the affidavit. The News-Democrat is not releasing the driver's name because he has not been charged.

Buel was a senior at Alton High School, where she excelled academically, according to her obituary. She was an avid writer and adored her seven dogs. She wanted to rescue "every dog that needed help or love on the face of the Earth," her obituary said.

"Trinity (Buel) was honest and real, always remaining true to her individuality in this difficult world," her obituary said. "To those closest to her, she radiated light and love and strength that can never be duplicated by another person."