Day care van accident leaves 1 dead, 6 recovering in hospital

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by WHAS11

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 5:26 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 21 at 11:51 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Just six kids remain at Kosair Children's Hospital one day after a Heavenly Angels Childcare Van carrying 14 kids and two adults slammed into a tree, killing a female day care monitor and sending them all to area hospitals Tuesday.

A Jefferson County coroner said 31-year-old Tiffany Belk died of multiple blunt force trauma injuries about 45 minutes after the 5 p.m. accident on Algonquin Parkway, near the intersection of Wingfield Avenue. Belk leaves behind two children, according to her family members.

At WHAS11 news time late Wednesday, a Kosair spokesman said three of the six kids are in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with the three remaining in regular "medical surgical" rooms. One of the children in the PICU is in critical condition with the other two upgraded to fair condition Wednesday. The driver remains in critical condition at University Hospital.

Roniece Baker, an aunt of three of the kids in the accident, said her eight-month-old niece has brain swelling and is on a ventilator. Her one-year-old nephew has abdominal bleeding, she said, sustained from a seat belt injury. Her four-year-old niece needs facial reconstruction surgery and had surgery on her eye and was bleeding in her retina.

A Louisville Metro Police Public Information Officer said everyone in the van, including the two children in car seats, was wearing seat belts except for the driver, whose name will not be released.

The cause of the crash has also not been determined, though first responders on the scene Tuesday told WHAS11 the van had a blown tire or the driver suffered a medical emergency. The van could be seen with one flat tire on the passenger's side and a tire completely off of its axle on the driver's side. LMPD are continuing their investigation into the accident.

There were no visible skid marks along Algonquin Parkway. Wednesday, someone left a stuffed animal -- a patriotic eagle -- at the base of the tree.

Heavenly Angels Childcare Center is on Dixie Highway not far from the accident scene. The van makes runs to drop children off at their homes daily.

Police said the driver of the Ford passenger van lost control and struck a tree head on.

Fourteen children ranging in age from eight-months to eight-years-old were on board the van with the driver and Belk.

The driver and Belk were taken to University Hospital where Belk was pronounced dead on arrival. A fire department spokesman said the driver was pinned under the dashboard. Emergency crews had cut her out of the vehicle.

Dr. Stephen Wright, Kosair Children's Hospital Medical Director, elaborated, "Most of the time they get to go home, so to have this many injured and admitted to the hospital is a little bit unusual."

Witnesses who were around the accident helped get kids out of the van.

"It was devastating," Charles McKellery said. "I didn't know what was gonna happen, I was scared, I thought maybe the baby was gonna die in my arms ... I was pinching her. Every time she went limp on me I would pinch her, you know what I'm saying, to make sure she was still with me."

An aunt to some of the accident victims was upset about how she heard about the crash.

"Hearing it from the news and not the day care is upsetting. That the day care owner is their cousins,"  Roniece Baker said.

Baker says the family learned of the accident from watching the news on television and was not notified by the daycare owner. The owner was reached by phone but had no comment.

No other vehicles were involved in the accident.

Heavenly Angels Childcare Center is in good standing with the state and has an active license.

In August, 2010, WHAS11 did report about a two-year-old being left in a van at the day care on Dixie Highway. The family of the child said he was left alone for three hours and day care workers didn't realize he was missing until his parents came to pick him up. Two employees were fired.

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