A 6-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl were killed and three other children were in serious condition Monday morning after their SUV overturned and struck a barrier on Interstate 40 in east Arkansas on Sunday, officials said.
The children were riding east on I-40 near the Main Street exit in Palestine when, shortly after 7:30 p.m., the 2001 GMC Yukon they were in entered the median and overturned, according to a preliminary report by Arkansas State Police. Troopers said the SUV struck a cable barrier before coming to a stop in the left westbound lane.
Two children were pronounced dead at the scene, while the three others were taken to Memphis hospitals and were in serious condition Monday morning, said Miles Kimble, St. Francis County coroner. One mother told Kimble her child was in surgery Monday and that doctors expect her to fully recover, the coroner said.
The driver, 28-year-old Kanittra Griffin of Stuttgart, was taken to Regional One Health Medical Center for treatment, authorities said. Griffin is the children’s aunt, according to the coroner. Officials did not have an update on her condition Monday morning.
The family was returning from a vacation when the wreck happened, Kimble said.
“It’s quite difficult,” Kimble said. “Nobody needs to lose a loved one. Nobody deserves that, and especially not a child.”
The coroner commended the St. Francis County emergency staff for their work in quickly getting the victims out of the wreck and treated. Several bystanders who were medically trained also went to assist at the “very chaotic scene,” he said.
Kimble encouraged drivers who are traveling to ensure they have some sort of identification with their children in the event of an emergency. He said it was difficult to keep parents informed after the crash about their children’s conditions.
“The parents asked me, ‘How’s my child? How’s my child?’ And I couldn’t tell them that, because I didn’t have a positive ID.”
As the father of a 7-year-old girl, Kimble said working this crash has been especially difficult.
“Me, as a coroner, I know I should be a lot stronger than this,” he said. “But this breaks my heart.”