Local teen receives probation in crash which killed her sister

Thursday, September 12, 2002

A 16-year-old girl has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor speeding in connection with the November accident that killed her younger sister and injured two other teenagers.

April McDonald, of Cape Girardeau, entered the guilty plea to the speeding charge Wednesday after it was reduced from careless and imprudent driving. Following a plea agreement, Associate Circuit Judge Michael Bullerdieck suspended McDonald's sentence and placed her on supervised probation on the condition that she attend a traffic program and perform 40 hours of community service.

Reached at her home Wednesday afternoon, McDonald declined to comment.

McDonald's 11-year-old sister, Brittany, died when the car her sister was driving vaulted off a curve on County Road 206 just west of Cape Girardeau and struck a tree, Missouri State Highway Patrol reports showed. The accident happened Nov. 20, 2001, after McDonald picked her sister up from school.

The car April McDonald was driving, a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am, was equipped with a Crash Data Retrieval System, which records certain data during the five seconds before the air bag was deployed. That system showed that the car was going 56 mph immediately before the crash. The posted speed limit was 35 mph.

Serves as warning

"Speed kills," Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said in a prepared statement. "That is the message young people need to hear. If one other young driver heard about the tragedy of this case and drives more carefully as a result, perhaps other lives can be saved."

Swingle also defended the plea agreement.

"The normal types of punishment such as jail time or fines did not seem appropriate for April McDonald, however, because of the loss this teenager has already suffered."

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