The 18-year-old driver said the man riding in the passenger seat grabbed his head and pulled him away from the wheel, causing him to run off the road and crash.
The passenger, Brian C. Poe, 38, Trafalgar, was thrown from the vehicle and killed during the accident Wednesday afternoon.
The driver, Devin D. Fleener, 18, of Martinsville, was not injured. Police arrested him on a misdemeanor charge of minor consumption after a breath test showed he had alcohol in his system. Police also took a blood test, which is standard in a fatal accident, to test for alcohol and drugs.
Fleener told police Poe was highly intoxicated, grabbed his head and told him “I love you, brother,” according to a police report. That’s when Fleener lost control of the truck and told police he doesn’t remember what happened after that.
The two are not brothers but are acquainted.
Poe died at the scene of the accident on County Road 300S, about 1.5 miles east of State Road 135. The passenger-side doors were torn off during the wreck, and he was thrown out of the vehicle.
The preliminary cause of death was determined to be blunt-force trauma to multiple areas, Johnson County Coroner Craig Lutz said. An autopsy is not planned, but blood draws were taken to test for drugs and alcohol. Those results will be ready in four to six weeks, he said.
The results from the blood test on Fleener would be turned over the county prosecutor, who would decide whether to file charges, Sheriff Doug Cox said.
Johnson County Sheriff’s Office investigators are still working to find out exactly what happened during the crash.
The pickup was traveling west on County Road 300S and went off north side of the road. The truck hit a utility pole, guy wires and a culvert; and Poe was ejected. The truck crossed the road and stopped on the south side near Fair Haven Christian Church, Cox said.
Fleener originally told police he was the passenger and Poe was driving, according to a police report. He later told a detective he was the one driving.
Police gave Fleener an alcohol-breath test after the accident, which registered 0.039 percent blood-alcohol content. While that amount is less than the limit to be considered too intoxicated to drive, Fleener was arrested because he is not old enough to legally drink alcohol.
Deputies found a whiskey bottle and beer cans near the doors of the truck after the accident, Cox said.
Police don’t know how fast the vehicle was going prior to the accident, but the vehicle was off the road for a long distance before it stopped, Cox said. Because Poe was thrown out of the truck during the crash, Cox said he likely wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
Fleener, 24 Sunnyside Drive, Martinsville, was released from the Johnson County Jail on Wednesday on a $1,000 bond.