Police are looking into whether McCaffery may have crashed the car as a result of a drag race, chase or road rage with another car seen driving “side by side” with hers.
The crash, which occurred at the southwest corner of Twyckenham and Corby Boulevard, also killed one of Knapp’s dogs. Another dog was found cowering under a bed but was not injured.
Police said McCaffery and a 19-year-old male passenger were driving west on Corby with another vehicle at a high rate of speed. The other vehicle turned southbound onto Twyckenham. McCaffery also reportedly attempted to turn the car southbound, but instead hit a fire hydrant and drove straight into the living room. Officials said the fire hydrant was hit with such force that it flew through the wall of the home and out the other side.
McCaffery and her passenger were found lying in the front yard and were taken to area hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries. The passenger, who has not been identified, was not arrested. McCaffery told police she lives in South Bend but has a Wisconsin driver’s license.
Knapp was eventually found under the car and rubble and was pronounced dead at the scene.
About half of the small, one-story home collapsed from the impact. Because of the level of damage, it is likely McCaffery was traveling at a “very, very high rate of speed,” said Capt. Phil Trent, South Bend police spokesman.
Drug and alcohol testing were under way Friday afternoon, said Capt. Tim Spencer, commander of the St. Joseph County Fatal Alcohol Crash Team.
“We’re still really early in this,” Spencer said. “We have a lot still to sift through.”
Several family and friends spent the day at the home removing items, even though the house appeared as if it could be on the verge of collapse.
Tom Moran, who rented the house to Knapp for the past two years, said the house will be razed on Monday or Tuesday.
He, too, said Knapp will be sorely missed.
“She was a great lady — it’s tough,” he said.
“She had recently retired and was living life to the most. It’s just a horrible story.”
Said Szymanski: “Our family was her biggest thing, but she did so much.”
Shea added her mother often slept on the couch to fall asleep with the TV on, even when she was staying at her house. Had she been in her bedroom she likely would not have been injured, Trent said.
Szymanski said his mother owned her own business and worked at local TV stations in their marketing departments. She was also involved in local charities.
Trent added police would “definitely” like to talk to whoever was in the car alongside McCaffery’s, and are seeking the public’s help in doing so.
South Bend police are asking witnesses to contact them at 574-235-9201 or by calling Crime Stoppers at 574-288-STOP.
Staff writer Tom Moor: