Driver in fatal Russell Cave accident had a learner's permit, police say

shopkins@herald-leader.comMay 1, 2009 

A Bryan Station High School student who drove the car that crashed Monday night on Russell Cave Road should not have been behind the wheel without a licensed adult in the passenger seat, police said.

One student died and three others were injured, including the driver.

Lexington Police Sgt. Ann Gutierrez said Nicolas Petit-Frere, 17, was driving on a learner's permit. It's not clear how long he has had the permit.

Under Kentucky's graduated license law, permit holders must be accompanied by a licensed adult over 21. The law also prohibits permit holders from driving with more than one unrelated person under age 20 — a measure created to limit distractions for young drivers.

Investigators say Petit-Frere was driving faster than the posted speed limit of 55, but Gutierrez said it could be weeks before police determine how fast the car was going. In some cases, police are never able to determine a conclusive speed, she said.

Police say Petit-Frere was driving a white Toyota Camry outbound on Russell Cave between Faulkner Avenue and Interstate 75 when it swung into the inbound lane, then went back into the outbound lane, struck a rock wall and hit a tree head-on.

The front passenger, Nathaniel Lee Stuckey, 15, died in the crash.

Petit-Frere was listed in critical condition Thursday at University of Kentucky Hospital. Jasmine Marks, 16, was in serious condition, and Kierra Fultz, 17, was in fair condition. A collision report said everyone was wearing a seat belt except Marks.

All four students attended Bryan Station High School.

According to a collision report, the 2000 Camry belonged to Mecene Petit-Frere, who did not return calls for comment Thursday.

The graduated driver's license law, passed in 2006, also requires that teens hold a permit for six months before obtaining an intermediate license. They must have a clean driving record for six months while holding the intermediate driver's license before they are issued a driver's license.

Gutierrez said officers from the Collision Reconstruction Unit returned to the site Thursday to collect more information.

Ray Larson, commonwealth's attorney for Fayette County, did not return telephone calls on Thursday seeking comment.

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