• May 24, 2022

Tristan Cooley Killed, Teen Injured in Car Accident on US-84 near Gatesville, TX

Gatesville, TX -- May 22, 2022, 24-year-old Fort Hood soldier Tristan Cooley was killed in a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 84 near Gatesville.

Authorities say the incident happened just after midnight Sunday on US-84, roughly ten miles west of town. Preliminary investigation suggests Cooley was driving a Toyota Corolla east on the roadway as an 18-year-old male was driving a Chevy Suburban west in the same area. According to reports Cooley crossed over the center line for unknown reasons, after which the Toyota crashed head-on with the Suburban.

Cooley was airlifted from the scene to a Temple hospital where he died a short time later. The young Chevy driver suffered incapacitating injuries and was taken to a Temple hospital as well.

The investigation continues. No further information is currently available.

Commentary on Tristan Cooley Accident on US-84 near Gatesville

UPDATE (August 2, 2022): Later reports indicate the suspect had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .196 at the time of the crash. I don't say that in judgment, but confirmation that he was significantly over the legal limit for intoxication may change how the investigation should proceed.

Alcohol-related crashes in Texas and many other states sometimes involve holding the businesses that served it responsible for the damage their intoxicated patrons cause or suffer. Under dram shop law any business that continued serving alcohol if their customer was obviously intoxicated may have a legal duty to help anyone harmed by that over-service. In the US-84 accident that would mean helping the other driver and the crossover driver's family.

First, however, they'd have to prove that over-service occurred. Police investigations aren't very helpful for that, so it's usually best for victims to get help from independent experts who know how to get the necessary evidence. Armed with that, many people affected by reckless over-service have held bad businesses accountable for breaking the law and hurting them and their loved ones.

Tristan Cooley Killed, Teen Injured in Car Accident on US-84 near Gatesville, TX

ORIGINAL: People may read the reported details of this accident and without much further reflection blame the victim who crossed over the center line. If they bother to consider why he might have done so, they're likely to point a finger at one or more of the common causes of wrecks like this one--things like driver distraction, falling asleep at the wheel, or even possibly impairment. Because so many crashes are ultimately found to involve one or more of those, folks have a tendency to think any crashes with the same kinds of preliminary facts will fall in the same category.

While it's true that those factors are common in crossover wrecks, it's vital to any investigation to be thorough and consider other possibilities as well. Could the victim's tire have blown out? Did he hit a wet or unstable patch of road and lose control? Did he have any health problems that could have rendered him incapable of driving? Is that stretch of road poorly designed or hazardous in some way?

That's just a handful of the many questions that still need answers before anyone starts saying categorically what happened. Unusual issues contributed to crashes all the time, and yet in the haste to blame common factors they get overlooked. That means police reports and public opinion both end up mistaken, which can eventually cause serious difficulties to victims and their families if they seek answers. Often the best way to ensure only the facts do the talking is to enlist the help of independent accident reconstructionists. Those experts have the time, training, and equipment to locate every shred of evidence in order to tell a story based on nothing but objective data. Whether there are any further steps to take beyond simply bringing the truth to a grieving family depends on what that truth turns out to be.


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