LAWRENCE, Mich. (WOOD) - A Lawrence teen died after crashing his pickup truck into a tanker truck on an Indiana road early Sunday morning less than 10 hours before he was scheduled to graduate from high school.
The crash happened on State Road 23 near Adams Road in Indiana just south of the Michigan border around 4:30 a.m., Lt. Matt Blank of the Indiana St. Joseph County Police Department told 24 Hour News 8.
The southbound pickup truck driven by 18-year-old James Reeder crossed the center line and struck a northbound tanker truck head-on.
Right after the crash, the semi-truck's fuel tanks cracked and the cab portion of the semi burst into flames.
"He was carrying 8,000 gallons of fuel in this truck. The tractor was completely on fire, in other words, the front part of the truck," Clay Fire Territory Chief John Vance on the scene told WNDU, the NBC affiliate out of South Bend, Ind. "Our crews got here and began to immediately extinguish that."
The tanker portion of the semi-truck remained intact and did not catch fire.
The driver of the tanker truck, 43-year-old Troy Massey of Coloma, Mich., escaped the burning semi-truck and was treated at the scene. He was then taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. with minor injuries to his back and face.
Reeder was pronounced dead at the scene. The St. Joseph County police said that he suffered massive blunt force trauma in the crash.
Recent reports found Reeder tested positive for marijuana and had a blood alcohol level slightly more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent.
James Reeder was a senior at Lawrence High School, officials with Lawrence Public Schools told 24 Hour News 8. He was one of the students set to graduate Sunday afternoon.
Just a few hours before graduation, Superintendent John Overly got the call from his college roommate informing him of Reeder's death.
"I've been friends with the family for 30-something years. He just wanted to let me know his son had passed away in a car crash and he didn't have any more details than that," said Overly.
Reeder was senior class president.
Lawrence Athletic Director Jeff Miller told 24 Hour News 8 that Reeder was active in sports. He was the captain of both the football and track teams and participated in wrestling and cross-country track.
He was remembered as a popular athlete and all-around good kid.
A moment of silence began the graduation ceremony in the gym.
"They put the yellow rose on his chair where he would've been and his National Honor Society collar was on the chair," said Overly. "We left the chair open for him."
Graduates and teachers wore two black lines of black tape on their clothing and gowns. One was in memory of Reeder. The other was in memory of a teen girl who committed suicide earlier this school year.
"When we read his name, it was a standing ovation. Everybody in the crowd got up and was clapping for him, wishing he was here," Overly told 24 Hour News 8. "There was a lot of tears shed at that time."
Reeder would have attended Western Michigan University in the fall.
Indiana authorities continue to investigate the crash.
In Cassopolis on March 14, 2012, he got a person under 21 purchase/consume/possess alcohol. There is no word yet on this case's resolution.
On May 20, 2012, he was pulled over by the Cass County Sheriff's Dept on a traffic offense, and four days later, Reeder was charged with one count of operating with a high blood alcohol content, one count of operating as a minor with any BAC and one count of alcohol purchase/consumption, possession by a minor.
This case had not been resolved at the time he died.
24 Hour News 8's Crystal Hilliard contributed to this report.
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