Girl, 5, trapped and killed when car goes over Washington County hillside
When her car stopped tumbling down a steep 20-foot embankment Friday morning in rural Washington County, Latasha Stout realized her daughter wasn't in the back seat.
She pulled herself from the wreckage and found that Taylor Ann Louise Stout, 5, was dead, trapped under the overturned vehicle.
“Hysterical — just hysterical,” West Finley Volunteer Fire Chief Stephen Emery said while describing Stout's reaction at the scene of the deadly crash. “The mom got out unhurt, but she didn't know where her little girl was. Then she saw her under the car.
“That's one of the worst calls there is, when you have a small child involved. When it involves a little kid, it involves everybody.”
Stout, 23, could not be reached for comment.
Officials pronounced the girl dead at the scene, off Majorsville Road in West Finley.
State police said the child was in a booster seat but not properly restrained. She was ejected through the rear driver's side window when the car struck a tree. Her mother wore a seat belt, officials said.
Robbie Huber, Taylor's grandfather, said Stout is strict about restraining her children when driving.
“That just does not make sense to me,” said Huber, 55, of Zanesville, Ohio. “My daughter wouldn't let me take those kids from one side of the street to another unless there was a restraint. They were always, always in a seat belt or car seat.”
Stout and her family live at a campground in West Finley. Camp officials would not allow reporters to visit. Huber said Stout and her boyfriend recently moved there with children from Ohio.
Taylor's father, Denver Ham, 25, of Newark, Ohio, said he has not seen his daughter in two years. He said she would have turned 6 in two weeks.
“I'm handling things one minute at a time,” Ham said.
Stout dropped off a man identified as her husband, a gas industry worker, at work and was driving Taylor to the bus stop when the accident occurred, Coroner Timothy Warco said. The car went off the road after coming through a left curve and crossing the center line.
A passing motorist, who told officials that he used to work as an emergency medical technician in Texas, stopped and tried to help the girl, Emery said.
“But there was nothing the fire department or the EMTs could do,” he said. “... I'm sure she died instantly.”
Fire crews rappeled down the hillside to reach the car.
The stretch of road lacks guardrails. Hours after the crash, tire marks showed the car's path to a flat clearing below. Broken glass littered the ground. Sections of bark were torn from tree trunks.
Stout told officials an oncoming car forced her off the road. State police said they are investigating.
The speed limit on the narrow, winding road is 40 mph. Residents said drivers often speed.
“Especially down there, you have these big trucks going in and out,” said April Herrick, 40, a gas industry worker from Waynesburg who works in an office at Four Seasons Camping Resort. “It's narrow there. You have to be really careful. I've had to slam on my brakes a couple times.”
McGuffey School District Superintendent Beverly Arbore said Taylor was in kindergarten at Claysville Elementary.
“When I heard there was an accident in West Finley, I feared the worst, and when my fears were confirmed, my heart dropped,” Arbore said.
The district will bring counselors to the school next week, he said.
“My heart goes out to (Stout), mom to mom,” Herrick said. “I can't imagine what she's going through.”
Margaret Harding and Chris Togneri are Trib Total Media staff writers. WPXI contributed to this report.