Northland teen pleads guilty in texting-while-driving fatality

A 16-year-old Northland girl accused of texting while driving and causing a fatal traffic crash pleaded guilty Thursday and must serve 48 hours of “shock time” in the Platte County jail.

Rachel N. Gannon pleaded guilty to second-degree involuntary manslaughter, third-degree assault and violating the 2009 Missouri law that prohibits motorists 21 or younger from text-messaging.

The Platte County Circuit Court judge suspended imposing Gannon’s prison sentence and placed her on five years probation. Gannon will have to serve 72 days of house arrest and perform 300 hours of community service. If Gannon finds a job over the summer, her work hours would count toward the community service. She was ordered to pay a $200 fine for violating the state law for text-messaging while driving.

“It was always important for Rachel to accept responsibility for this tragic accident,” said Brain Gaddy, her attorney. “She apologized to the family in open court.

“She has been through a lot of stress but is looking forward to doing what she is required to do by the court and moving on.”

Prosecutors said Gannon was sending text messages, looking at her phone and listening to loud music when she lost control of her vehicle in September. She slammed into a car driven by Loretta Larimer, a great-grandmother from Camden Point who had pulled off a Kansas City, North road into grass in an attempt to avoid the out-of-control vehicle headed her way.

This may have been the first case of its kind in the Kansas City area, and likely in Missouri, where prosecutors charged someone with texting while driving and causing a traffic crash that killed someone, officials said.

Gannon was driving a neighbor’s Honda Pilot when the wreck happened about 3 p.m. Sept. 26 in the 12200 block of Northwest Skyview Road.

Larimer, who had to be cut from her Nissan Altima, was pronounced dead at a hospital. Her granddaughter suffered a chipped arm bone, hurt neck and numerous bruises.

At the scene, Gannon told police she was looking at her phone when she lost control, authorities said. As she attempted to regain control, the vehicle slid across the roadway and into Larimer’s car.

A 15-year-old passenger from Gannon’s vehicle told police that Gannon was texting and looking at her phone and had the music “turned up too loud.” He noticed Gannon was going off the road and into the grass and said, “Rachel!” Gannon dropped her phone and tried to steer back onto the road, the witness said.

According to Larimer’s granddaughter, Larimer saw the vehicle coming at them, said “Aaah,” and swerved into the ditch. Police determined that Larimer’s car was near a complete stop when the Pilot struck it. The road did not have a shoulder.