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Vehicle Accident

Driver not charged in death of teenager

By Billy Davis

The teenage driver of a Jeep, which flipped and killed a passenger, is not facing criminal charges, a Panola sheriff’s spokesman said this week.

Andrew Sherman Lavender, 16, died July 11 when the Jeep overturned on a rutted field road east of Batesville in the Terza community. He was from Clarksdale.

Lavender and four others were riding in the Jeep when it overturned, said Panola Chief Deputy Otis Griffin. The driver and four passengers were all 16 years old.

Alcohol was found on the scene of the accident and blood was drawn from the driver, Griffin also said. The results of the blood test are pending.

Authorities did not identify the driver because he is a minor.

An autopsy showed that Lavender died of blunt force trauma to the back of the head, most likely from hitting the vehicle’s roll bar, said Panola coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge.

“I believe he hit the roll bar and it killed him instantly,” she said. “The Jeep did not roll over on him.”

The automobile accident occurred about 2 a.m., the coroner said.

Gulledge and Griffin both remarked about the rutty field, surmising that the ruts contributed to the accident.

“The ruts were huge,” said Gulledge. “I nearly broke my foot when I stepped in one.”

Griffin said no one else was hurt when the vehicle flipped.

Services for Lavender were held July 13 at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Clarksdale. He was a rising senior at Lee Academy.