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Report: Unsecured child seats contributed to five fatality crash on Missouri highway

Emergency responders with decades of experience said it was one of the most severe crashes they had ever seen.

"I’ve been in law enforcement for 24 years and this is the first time I’ve gone to a one-vehicle, five-person fatality," said Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott White.

White was one of many who responded to the crash on Highway 54 north of Eldon on the evening of Wednesday, May 15.

One car driven by a 30-year-old woman carrying four children was heading west before something went wrong. The driver lost control, and the car overturned several times at it crossed the median and the eastbound lanes.

Three of the occupants were ejected before the car came to a stop on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes. The driver and all four occupants, aged 0-8, were killed as a result.

The memorial in the Hwy 54 median, north of Eldon, at the site of the deadly May crash

The paint left behind by troopers who investigated the crash in May was still visible in late November.

"When you look on the highway here, you have paint, you have tire marks. In all honesty, that’s going to fade after a while," White said. "But I can tell you right now that the memories of that night will not fade away for everybody that arrived out there at the scene."

A preliminary crash report obtained by ABC 17 News showed that several factors could have contributed to the crash. Alcohol and speeding were observed, but it's not clear how much of a role they played in the "tragedy," according to White.

The report also showed that no one in the car was wearing proper safety devices. Two of the passengers were not correctly fastened to their child car seats, according to the report.

Watch MSHP Sgt. Scott White properly install a child car seat:

White said that riding in a car without a seatbelt or an improperly fastened child seat leaves passengers more chances for injuries.

"Whether or not it could’ve made a difference, we certainly believe so," he said. "Once that first harmful event begins, that car starts to flip and trip, you become defenseless at that point."

The crash reconstruction report, which would provide a more detailed account of what caused the crash, is not yet complete.

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Barry Mangold

Barry Mangold reports for ABC 17 News on weekday evenings and anchors weekend evening broadcasts.


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