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Young crash victim recognized for acts of kindness

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 10:55 a.m.
Daniel Eck, 7, of Parks Township, killed in a three-vehicle accident in Monroeville on Thursday evening.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Jennifer and Cody Sample

Kiski Area administrator Christine Ross remembers having lunch with Daniel Eck after he was recognized for random acts of kindness. Daniel was among students at Allegheny-Hyde Park Elementary School who were nominated for the honor by their peers and teachers for doing kind and helpful things.

Daniel, 7, died Thursday night after a three-vehicle crash in Monroeville that also killed his mother, Jennifer Sample, 28, of Parks.

“It's a loss,” said Ross, who had known Daniel since he was in kindergarten. “It's definitely a shock. He will be missed. He was a great little boy.”

Daniel was in second grade at Allegheny-Hyde Park last school year and would have started third grade there this fall.

“He was a very intelligent little boy. He definitely had a lot of friends,” Ross said. “He was a good role model.”

Jennifer Sample and her son were passengers in a vehicle driven by her husband, Cody, according to police. Cody Sample suffered serious injuries; their other son, Ben, 15 months, was not seriously hurt.

Police said the Samples' vehicle was one of two hit by a pickup in the 1500 block of the Golden Mile Highway section of Route 286 about 6:30 p.m.

Allegheny County police said they were investigating the possibility that the 65-year-old driver of the southbound pickup suffered a medical problem that caused him to cross into the northbound lanes.

Police did not identify the driver of the pickup. He was taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries.

Investigators do not believe drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash, but were waiting for toxicology test results.

County police said they will send their findings to the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, which will determine whether the pickup driver will face charges.

The driver of the other vehicle hit was not seriously injured, county police said. That person also was not identified.

Jennifer Sample was pronounced dead at the scene, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said. Her autopsy was not expected to be completed until Saturday.

Daniel was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he died Thursday night. The medical examiner said he died from blunt-force trauma to his trunk, pelvis and extremities. His death was ruled an accident.

The Janette Gamble Funeral Home in Parks is handling arrangements for both.

Daniel played baseball in the Kiski Valley Baseball & Softball Association, and his mother was a team mom, said coach Bobby Bucci, an association board member.

The association's tournament team plays this weekend at Monroeville Community Park and will be wearing armbands in Daniel's memory, Bucci said. Nine of the team's 12 players played with Daniel or went to school with him.

“Daniel was a great kid. He was one of the nicest kids on the team, definitely,” Bucci said. “He was going to be playing on our football team starting this Monday. His mother was volunteering to be team mom of that as well.

“They were a great family.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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