Joyride has a tragic ending Monday

Joyride has a tragic ending Monday by David Lias A Vermillion teenager out on an apparent joyride was killed when he lost control of the vehicle he was driving late Monday night.

Vermillion Police Chief Bruce Plate said Wednesday that James Gerhardt, 17, likely died of head injuries in the one car accident.

Gerhardt, the son of Mark Gerhardt and Barbara Lucas, was a junior at Vermillion High School.

A passing motorist reported the accident in the 500 block of South University Street at about 11:24 p.m. Monday.

Officers arriving at the scene found that the vehicle driven by Gerhardt left the roadway, entered a ravine and struck a tree.

Plate said that approximately one hour after the accident occurred, the police department received a report of a stolen vehicle from the 200 block of North University Street.

Officers determined that the stolen vehicle was the same one involved in the fatality accident.

Upon further investigation, police learned that Gerhardt had stolen a truck owned by a Vermillion business, and abandoned it to steal the car.

Police and accident reconstructionists were studying the stretch of University Street where the fatality occurred to gather data.

Plate said Wednesday that the exact cause of the accident had not yet been determined, but, judging from the condition of the wrecked car, speed likely was a factor.

An autopsy to determine the cause and manner of Gerhardt's death was conducted Tuesday in Sioux Falls.

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