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North Hills

Toddler 'likely would have survived' I-279 crash if she had been in a car seat

Megan Guza
| Thursday, May 18, 2017, 4:48 a.m.
A 2-year-old died in a car crash early Thursday on I-279.  The child was not in a car seat, according to police, and the car was in reverse when the crash occurred.
WPXI
A 2-year-old died in a car crash early Thursday on I-279. The child was not in a car seat, according to police, and the car was in reverse when the crash occurred.
A 2-year-old died in a car crash early Thursday on I-279.  The child was not in a car seat, according to police, and the car was in reverse when the crash occurred.
WPXI
A 2-year-old died in a car crash early Thursday on I-279. The child was not in a car seat, according to police, and the car was in reverse when the crash occurred.

A toddler killed in a bizarre Parkway North crash early Thursday likely would have survived if she had been in a car seat like she should have been, according to state police.

Two-year-old Saryiah Jefferson was in the backseat of a 1997 Toyota Camry driven by Taylor Jefferson, 24, of Penn Hills. Taylor Jefferson was driving north on I-279 about 1 a.m. when he stopped the car just past the Perrysville Exit and put the car into reverse, police said.

“We speculate that maybe he passed the exit and wanted to get off at the exit,” Trooper Melinda Bondarenka said.

As Taylor Jefferson drove in reverse the wrong way down the interstate, a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt driven by 21-year-old Daniel White plowed into the back of the Camry, Bondarenka said.

The two drivers, the toddler and another passenger in the Camry – Tyrek Jefferson, 22 – were taken to Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side with injuries, according to police.

No one in the Camry was wearing a seatbelt.

WPXI-TV reported, citing family friends, that Tyrek Jefferson is Saryiah's father. The girl's mother, Caitlyn Breitmos of West View, did not return messages seeking comment.

State police could not independently provide information about how the passengers of the Camry are connected.

Bondarenka said the child was not in a car seat, nor was she wearing a seat belt.

“There was no car seat in the vehicle,” she said. “A child needs to be restrained, and it's illegal to drive in reverse on the interstate.”

Bondarenka, a certified car seat technician, said a proper car seat likely would have saved Saryiah Jefferson.

“That child's so small in that vehicle that, unfortunately, the child could be ejected or tossed around that vehicle like any other piece of material in that car,” she said.

Saryiah Jefferson was pronounced dead about 2:30 a.m., according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office. She died of blunt force trauma to the head, trunk and extremities. Her death was ruled an accident, the examiner's office said.

State law says that children younger than 4 must be in a car seat regardless of where in the vehicle they sit.

Children younger than 2 must be in a rear-facing car seat until the child outgrows the specifications of the car seat manufacturer, according to PennDOT. Children between 4 and 8 must been in “an appropriate booster seat.”

PennDOT suggests that children between 2 and 3 be kept in a rear-facing seat as long as possible.

No charges had been filed as of early Thursday evening, but Bondarenka said investigators had interviewed the Jeffersons and their blood would be tested for drugs and alcohol.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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