Matthew Denton, a distraught teen from Lander, Wyoming, killed himself and another four people in a head-on crash when he drove into van at 97 mph to commit suicide.
The crash happened on November 10 just after midnight at four miles south of Lander, when Matthew Denton, 17, deliberately drove his Chevrolet Suburban into oncoming traffic.
His car was going 97 mph when it crashed head-on into the Dodge Caravan, instantly killing all four people inside.
Matthew Denton, who was alone in the car, died at a Casper hospital shortly after the crash.
The van was going between 50 and 55 mph. There was no evidence Matthew Denton was targeting anyone inside the van, officials said.
“I don’t think he had a clue who he was running into. It was dark. He picked the next vehicle that was coming down the road, is what it looked like to us,” Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt Tom Adams said.
The four people killed in the minivan were Corina Surrell-Norman, 41, her ex-husband Arvin Surrell, their 25-year-old son Ethan Surrell, who was driving the minivan and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Melinda Escamilla.
Matthew Denton was from Lander, and the Surrells lived in Fort Washakie about 20 miles north of the crash, a town of approximately 1,500.
Authorities determined the crash was intentional after inspecting a vehicle data recording device in Chevrolet Suburban. The “black box’ device showed how fast the car was going and that Matthew Denton didn’t attempt to brake.
Matthew Denton was “well into the throttle, almost to floor” when the crash happened, Lt Tom Adams said.
He also said text messages on Matthew Denton’s phone revealed he was having “personal problems” leading up to the wreck.
Lt Tom Adams declined to release the texts or say more about Matthew Denton’s personal issues.
Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan’s official report was that Matthew Denton’s death was a suicide and the deaths of the four others were homicides.
“He did an intentional act that took the lives of four people,” Ed McAuslan said.
Toxicology reports are pending.
Dodge Caravan tumbled off the highway and was engulfed in flames upon impact. Melinda Escamilla and Ethan Surrell were ejected from the van and Corina and Arvin Surrell were burned beyond recognition inside.
All four were killed instantly.
Matthew Denton died in hospital a few hours later.