Local News

Durham Teen Ejected From Jeep Dies From Injuries

Posted July 28, 2003

— A teenager injured in an accident with a Durham police car has died.

Matthew West, 17, was injured Tuesday, when he was thrown from a Jeep after it collided with a Durham police cruiser. West was taken to Duke Hospital, where he remained until he died at 9:55 p.m. Sunday.

West had been in critical condition, in a medically-induced coma. According to a family statement released by the hospital, West's parents decided to remove him from life support:

"Despite the tremendous efforts of his care team, his parents made the painful decision to remove him from life support. Matt's family asks to be allowed to grieve for their son and brother. The family also wishes to express their gratitude to the physicians, nurses and staff of Duke Hospital, and to the many friends, neighbors and people throughout the community for their prayers, thoughts and many acts of kindness."

The Matthew Paul West Foundation, created by his family, will benefit community organizations that were a part of his life. West was a counselor at Camp Kanata and was active in Young Life.

West's death came after family and friends came together for a vigil Saturday night at the intersection of Vickers and Morehead avenues in Durham, where the accident happened.

"The first time I met him, I told my wife, 'This is the coolest kid I've ever met.' He's never disappointed me, he's the nicest guy in the world," family friend Tony Britt said.

The accident happened at 1:05 a.m., when the right front of the 1999 Jeep Wrangler driven by 17-year-old Benjamin G. Culler of Durham collided with the driver's-side passenger compartment of a 2001 Ford patrol car driven by officer Alfred Rodriguez.

The Jeep was traveling southbound on Vickers Avenue, and the patrol car was going east on Morehead Avenue. The patrol car did not stop at a flashing red light, according to a preliminary report from the Police Department's Traffic Services Division.

The impact caused the Jeep to spin around and strike the curb. West, a passenger in the back seat of the Jeep, was ejected. The patrol car spun around and came to rest on Morehead Avenue.

Rodriguez is on administrative duty while the department investigates the accident.

Monday, Durham city manager Marcia Conner released the following statement:

"The entire City of Durham, the Police Department and I extend our deepest heartfelt sympathies to the West family on the loss of their son and brother, Matthew. Words cannot adequately describe our sorrow at the loss of this young, promising life. I am asking the community to pray for Matthew's family during this very difficult time. I am also asking that we keep Officer Alfred Rodriguez and his family in our prayers as well."

No funeral or memorial service arrangements have been announced.


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