A multi-vehicle accident involving an active duty U.S. Air Force service member assigned to Ramstein Air Base resulted in the death of a 17-year-old German boy Feb. 6.
Air Force officials said they were working with German authorities to conduct an investigation into the cause of the accident, and local newspapers reported Tuesday that the investigation was being handed over to U.S. officials.
“We express our deepest condolences. As a parent of a 16 year-old and 18 year-old myself, I can only imagine the pain felt by another parent at the loss of their child," Brig. Gen. Mark August, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing, said in a statement. “This is a tragedy for our community, and we will work with our German partners to investigate this accident.”
The collision occurred on L367, a motorway between the local municipalities of Mackenbach and Weilerbach, just a few minutes driving distance from the air base.
The teenage boy was driving between those two municipalities at the time of the accident, according to a German police summary of the incident. The airman, headed in the opposite direction, was passing another vehicle when he collided head-on with the German teen, who was driving a three-wheeled lightweight vehicle, a Piaggio Ape, which is based on a Vespa scooter.
“The force of the impact catapulted the light vehicle over a following scooter and against a car driving behind the scooter. The accident victim was thrown out of the vehicle and died at the scene of the accident,” police said. “The 20-year-old causing the accident and his female passenger were seriously but not fatally injured in the collision.”
The two were new to Ramstein, which was the airman’s first duty assignment, Stars and Stripes reported. The couple was still living in temporary lodging, according to Stripes.
A blood sample was taken from the airman following the accident, but police were not able to determine whether there was any influence of alcohol or drugs, according to Die Rheinpfalz, a regional German newspaper.
The airman and his wife were taken to the hospital with severe injuries, police said. The road was closed for several hours and U.S. Air Force security forces airmen arrived to help secure the scene.
Die Rheinpfalz reported Tuesday that German authorities have transferred the investigation of the traffic accident to the U.S. military justice system.
This procedure is in accordance with NATO’s Status of Forces Agreement, as the presumed causer of the accident is a member of the U.S. forces stationed in Germany.
Stars and Stripes interviewed a local fire department chief who said that the stretch of road where the crash occurred is known to be dangerous. While the center line on the roadway indicates a passing zone, the road is curved, and visibility can be limited, according to Stripes.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.