Child Killed on Ohio Highway Standing on Median After 87-Vehicle Pileup: Lessons Learned

A 12-year-old Ohio girl was killed tragically on Jan. 21 as she stood on a highway median strip following an 87-vehicle pileup caused by icy roads and poor visibility due to a snow squall that enveloped an area of westbound Interstate 275 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies said the trouble started when vehicles spinning out of control set off a chain reaction of collisions,” according to a story on Cincinnati.com “By the time it was over, at least 87 cars and trucks had slammed into one another.”

The storm created “near white-out conditions” that made the stretch of highway very dangerous, the paper reported. “It was just chaos, absolute chaos,” Lt. Tory Smith of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, told Cincinnati.com.

The girl, Sammy Reagan, was the only person killed in the tragic crash, the paper reported. She apparently got out of the car she had been riding in and was standing on the highway’s median strip when she was killed by a steel cable from a guardrail. The cable struck her after it had been hit by a sliding vehicle that was involved in the pileup, the paper reported.

The sixth-grader’s school website posted a memorial message about Reagan after the crash, calling her “a happy, vivacious 12-year old who always had a smile on her face,” according to Cincinnati.com.

The guardrail cable that killed the girl “may have actually saved many other lives” at the crash site, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil told Cincinnati.com.

“As far as I’m concerned, those cables did their job: To keep traffic from crossing that median, and those cables prevented head-on collisions,” he said. “They kept everybody on the right side of the highway.”

At the same time, the horrific multi-vehicle pileup and the girl’s death offer stark reminders about the dangers of vehicle crashes even after the initial collisions that should be kept in mind by all drivers and their passengers.

So what should you do if you are involved in a vehicle accident and aren’t sure whether it is safe to stay in the damaged vehicle or if you should move to a safer area?

It depends on the situation, said Dorie Weik, public affairs coordinator and a safe driving class instructor for AAA Central Penn.

“One has to decide based on the driving conditions, and you have to use your best judgment for each situation,” said Weik. “The difference in staying inside the car or getting out of the car is usually decided by when vehicles are still moving and crashing into each other. You have to use your common sense.”

If other vehicles are still moving and you are in imminent danger of being struck by additional vehicles, such as happens during a multi-vehicle pileup, then you probably want to carefully leave the vehicle and make your way a safe distance from the involved vehicles, said Weik.

On the other hand, if the crash occurs in the frigid months of winter, and there are no dangers of other vehicles being involved, then remaining inside your damaged vehicle can be a better choice so that you and your passengers are safe from the elements, she said. “If you are in a single-vehicle crash, such as driving off a ridge or into a ditch, then your risk of being exposed to the elements in winter can be a danger.”

One thing that is important to remember is to NOT stand behind or next to damaged vehicles to protect yourself from further injuries by passing vehicles, according to Weik. “That’s your first place of impact if you are going to get hit post-crash,” she said. “We tell people to put flares out at least 300 feet back” from the crash scene to warn other motorists of the dangers ahead.

Much of a motorist’s options after a crash, of course, will also depend on where the crash occurred and whether there are safe places to wait until help arrives.

“Find the best place you can to be safe,” said Weik. “Don’t stand on the side of road waiting for a tow truck or police to arrive. Get back off the roadway. Your safety must come first.”

Ultimately, “every crash is different,” said Weik. “It all comes down to people driving at excessive speeds. They don’t slow down. They don’t adjust their driving habits to the conditions that they are driving in.”

Good words for us all to remember and think about as we drive during this winter driving season. We all can honor the life and tragic death of young Sammy Reagan by driving more carefully, slowing down and keeping in mind Weik’s post-crash safety tips. We hope such a tragedy never happens again.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle accident caused by another driver anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.