Two small children – riding skateboards and happily playing one minute – were run over by a car and pinned underneath the next minute Friday afternoon on Governor Road. The children, identified by police as Ethan Ford, 6, of 790 Governor Road, and Megan Newlin, 7, of 789-1 Governor Road, were freed from under the 1991 Mercury Marquis and were rushed to Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus in critical condition.
Emergency responders said they were unconscious and bleeding badly.
Police said they suffered head and chest injuries and were airlifted to the University of Chicago Hospitals.
Porter County police Lt. Chris Eckert said the victims either ran or skateboarded out from Newlin’s driveway at 789-1 Governor Road about 1:30 p.m. Friday. Their view of northbound traffic was obstructed by a pickup truck parked in the road, and the northbound driver who ended up striking them said they came right out in front of her.
She tried to stop, but left about two car lengths of skid marks, pinning Newlin under the rear, driver’s side of the car. Ford was pinned under the front, passenger’s side tire. Neighbor George Bonner lent emergency responders his jack so they could lift the front end of the car.
One of Newlin’s pink flip-flop shoes and one of Ford’s dark gym shoes sat in the road as Portage police accident reconstructionists took measurements of the skid marks. A skateboard was overturned a few feet away and yellow crime scene tape was strung around the entire scene.
Neighbor Lee Braner, a teacher at Victory Christian Academy, said she had Newlin as a kindergarten student two years ago. Ford, meanwhile, had just moved to the area and was planning to attend Paul Saylor Elementary School.
Neighbors said Ford is a typical boy, enjoying banging on drums, wrestling, riding bicycles and swimming. Newlin enjoys playing with her toy horses, and both children bounced on a neighbor’s trampoline.
Braner’s daughter, 11-year-old Az’a, baby-sat Newlin and called her “an awesome … wonderful little girl.”
“They (both of the struck children) were nice and friendly. They’d make friends with anybody,” said Braner’s son, 12-year-old Cor.
“They were just really happy kids all the time.”
South Haven Deputy Fire Chief Bob Shepard, whose firefighters extricated the children, said the accident should serve as a reminder that when vehicles park on the street, it makes it harder for motorists and pedestrians to see each other, and it can slow emergency response vehicles.
Porter County police identified the driver as Crystal Randolph, 28, of Chesterton. Police said she tested negative for alcohol and results from a drug test, routinely administered in serious accidents, are pending.
Randolph told police she was unable to stop when the children ran in front of her vehicle.
Police said they still were determining how fast Randolph was driving. She was not arrested and does not now face criminal charges.
Witnesses said she was distraught after the crash.
Neighbors, seeing the skid marks left behind by the driver who struck the children, also complained that speeding is an ongoing problem on the road.
“This was a matter of time, and if nothing is done, it’s another matter of time (before another tragedy occurs),” neighbor Michael Myers said.
“At least every other house, if not every house, has small children,” said his wife, Christina Myers. “I don’t allow (my four children) outside in the front unless somebody is outside.”
The neighbors talked about looking into installing speed bumps, getting more speeding enforcement or closing the end of the road so it would no longer be a through street.
“I can’t tell you how many times people almost got hit on this road,” Ben Braner said.
Bonner, the man whose jack was used to lift the car, said the lone bright spot was the excellent response by emergency responders.
“That was the best response I’ve ever seen. Within two minutes, they were on the road,” he said.