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DES MOINES, Iowa — A Des Moines 16-year-old is fighting for his life after a crash that one witness says likely could have been prevented.

In his 25 years in law enforcement, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Dan Charleston has seen a lot of accidents. But the one he saw Monday will stick with him.  Charleston was off duty when he drove up on an accident on Southeast 14th and Lacona Avenue. A blue Chevy Cavalier had been t-boned by a pick-up. Charleston stopped to help the driver.

“I got out and could see that he was trapped in there on the drivers side of the vehicle and there was a lot of smoke inside which is consistent with the airbag deployment.” So, Charleston forced his way in. “I got into the passenger side door and looked at him and he had some head trauma on the left side and he was clearly unconscious and had a lot of blood on his face,” Charleston recalled.

But what he saw next really disturbed him. “What appeared to be a cell phone with a text page open on his lap.” Charleston says there was a half written text on the phone.

According to police reports, the 16-year-old driver, James Boatright, pulled right into oncoming traffic on Southeast 14th. Charleston suspects Boatright had been texting and driving, like he sees so many people doing. “You do it so much that you think nothing’s gonna happen but that one time when someone t-bones you in that manner you can cause death and or serious injury. Just with that moment of inattention.”

According to Mercy Hospital, Boatright is in critical condition. Charleston says he shouldn’t be; that accidents like this are preventable. That’s why he’ll always remember this one.

“When I’m working on him inside the car what appeared to be his mom screaming over my shoulder, concerned with her son,” Charleston said. “That sticks with you. And no text is worth hearing screams of a mother literally wanting to know if her son’s going to live or die.”