Hamilton girls recovering after Virginia crash claims family
Jun 28, 2008 11:18 PM
Paul Legall Hamilton spectatorHAMILTON–Two girls who survived a collision that claimed their parents and sister on a Virginia highway are recovering in an American hospital.The Hamilton couple, Bill and Sandra Smith, were en route to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with their three girls Thursday evening when Bill lost control of their 2005 Dodge Durango, which was towing an 11-metre fifth-wheel trailer.
The SUV and trailer went across the median of I-77 and plowed into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer, according to Virginia state police. Bill, 33, Sandra, 35, and daughter Kaylee, 7, were all pronounced dead at the scene. Virginia police said the truck driver, who wasn’t injured, had no time to swerve out of the way.
A witness said the Smith vehicle was airborne when it crashed across the centre of the four-lane highway. Madison, 9, was airlifted to the Wake Forest University Baptist Center in Winston Salem, N.C. Jenna, 3, was driven by ambulance to the same hospital.Madison had surgery yesterday for head trauma and is doing well, said Virginia State Trooper O.J. Lilly. Jenna was treated for a broken collarbone.Both girls are expected to make a full recovery, Lilly said.
The depth of the tragedy has just started to sink in for residents of the working-class Hamilton Mountain neighbourhood where the young couple had lived for about seven years. Bill was a bus driver with the Hamilton Street Railway while Sandra had worked for several years in the accounting department of Turkstra Lumber. Edith Mann, who lives next door to the Smiths, described the couple as great neighbours whose children had adopted her as a surrogate grandmother. She said the family often took trips with their trailer and were planning a straight run for Myrtle Beach when they pulled out early Thursday morning.
The Smiths had been travelling about 14 hours when the collision occurred. Mann said Bill had few surviving relatives in the Hamilton area. He had no brothers or sisters and his mother had died several years ago. His father is elderly and suffers from dementia, she said.She said Sandra’s parents and younger brother have gone to the medical centre in Winston Salem.Mann’s son Don said he got to know the Smiths through his mother and recently went for a motorcycle ride with Bill, who had bought a Honda Shadow this year.“He was the kind of guy who cheered you up if you were down,” he recalled.
There were still two cars in the driveway and the backyard was strewn with toys where the children were playing only a few days ago. An impromptu shrine had sprung up on the front porch where people had left flowers, cards and stuffed animals.