A 15-year-old California boy was killed June 8 when a police cruiser slammed into the car he was riding in, causing a four-car pile-up.
Weston Sites was riding in the backseat of a Hyundai with two friends en route to help out with a high school fundraiser when a California Highway Patrol car rear-ended the sedan in a construction zone, killing Weston and injuring the 17-year-old driver and her 14-year-old sister, according to the Daily Mail.
Photos of the scene show the badly-mangled Hyundai, with the rear portion of the car -- including the back passenger seats -- compressed from the force of the impact.
Investigators said driver inattention was a factor in the crash, specifically that the officer looked down at his laptop and didn't realize he was heading into a construction zone where other cars were stopped. Most police cars are fitted with computers that allow officers to call up license information, print tickets and access law enforcement databases, among other uses.
"He applied his brakes and rear-ended the vehicle that was in front of him, which subsequently got pushed into two other vehicles that were stopped," California Highway Patrol Sgt. Tony Odell told the Mail.
Police have not released the identity of the officer beyond saying he's a 49-year-old with 20 years of service. He's from Willow, the same Glenn County city the victim lived in.
The officer and three others suffered minor injuries, in addition to the two teenagers in the Hyundai. None of them were seriously hurt, and police said they were discharged from local hospitals.
A police accident investigation team was still looking at the details of the crash. California Highway patrol Assistant Chief Todd Garr told KCRA that investigators are looking at driver distraction as a factor in the crash.
“That may have been a component in this investigation, but there may have been others,” Garr said. “We don’t want to be premature in saying this was the cause of the accident.”
The officer could face criminal charges if he's found at fault in the crash, authorities said.
Weston "was that student that when he walked down the hall, he had a smile on his face every day," Willows High School Principal Shane Humphries told California's Action Now News.
The community held a candlelight vigil for the deceased teen at nightfall on June 8, the station reported.
"He has touched so many different people," his father, Byron Sites, told the crowd gathered for the vigil. "If people were having a bad day, he made them smile."