Investigators release cause for crash that killed 5 Oklahoma students

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Okla. – It was a crash that stunned an Oklahoma community earlier this year.

On Sept. 17, troopers with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol were called to an accident around 10:40 p.m. on the Welling Bridge near Tahlequah.

Investigators say a pickup truck carrying five teenagers drove through a railing on the bridge and fell 35 feet into the river below.

Crews pulled the bodies of 18-year-old Donovan Caldwell, 18-year-old Jessica Swartwout, 19-year-old Drake Wells, 18-year-old Lily Murphy and 18-year-old Rihana Seely from the vehicle.

Friends tell News 4 the group was out celebrating Wells' 19th birthday. Officials say all five teenagers were students at Northeastern State University.

"I cannot fathom the pain the families and friends of these young people are going through as a result of this terrible and tragic accident. My thoughts and prayers are with them this morning," a statement from the president of NSU read, in part.

"This will have a profound effect on all of us and Northeastern State University for many years to come. Supporting our students, faculty and staff will remain our top priority."

Now, it seems that troopers have a few more answers into what happened in the moments before the deadly crash.


On Wednesday, officials with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol announced that Caldwell was likely speeding when he tried to negotiate a curve. However, the roadway was wet and his truck slid into the guardrail.

Investigators say Caldwell was not impaired, but was simply going too fast for the road conditions.