Officials say Wednesday’s two-vehicle accident east of Yankton — which took five lives — could take some time to investigate due to the number of fatalities.
On Thursday, Tony Mangan — public information officer with the South Dakota Department of Public Safety — told the Press & Dakotan that it could be a drawn-out investigation due to the circumstances.
"The Highway Patrol has been asked to investigate the crash," Mangan said. "These things take time. There’s a lot of things that have to be done — especially with this crash, with so many fatals. It’s going to take some time."
The accident, which was reported at 1:20 a.m., occurred when a Yankton police officer attempted to initiate a traffic stop with an eastbound 1996 Acura Integra on Highway 50. The Integra shut off its lights and crossed into the westbound lane where it collided with a westbound 2010 Nissan Sentra.
Mangan said the reason for attempting to initiate the traffic stop has not been released at this time.
"It’s part of the investigation," he said. "It’s a continuing investigation so we don’t really have anything new at this point."
The two occupants in the Sentra — a 27-year-old male driver and an unidentified passenger — were pronounced dead on the scene.
Three of four occupants in the Sentra — a 40-year-old female driver, a 43-year-old male passenger and a 10-year-old female passenger — were killed in the crash.
A 12-year-old female passenger was airlifted to a Sioux Falls hospital with life-threatening injuries. An update on her condition was unavailable.
Mangan said further information such as names would be released on Saturday.
Interim Yankton Police Chief John Harris told the Press & Dakotan Thursday that, as the Highway Patrol conducts its investigation, local personnel are focusing their efforts elsewhere.
"Since they’re doing the investigation, we’re focusing on the impact to the community and our people," Harris said. "It does have psychological impacts, so we’re looking at those issues."
He said that there’s many in the community affected by the accident.
"I understand I haven’t been here long, but I’ve been here long enough to realize how nice of a community and close-knit it is," he said. "There’s the family itself, the extended family and, since there’s kids involved, there’s schools and friends. Then there are officers — not just our officers, but the officers from the Highway Patrol who have to investigate it — EMS who has to come out and respond, the fire department who was out there and did a phenomenal job for us. Those people are impacted. … It has a far-reaching impact when you have an event like this."
Harris said he is keeping in contact with the Highway Patrol as the investigation continues and that the department will provide critical incident stress management for those officers and dispatchers involved.
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