Passerby Helps Protect Young Survivor Of Fatal Turnpike Crash

Monday, March 20th 2017, 5:32 pm
By: News 9

State troopers are still working to determine what caused a crash on the Turner Turnpike that killed a grandmother and her two young grandchildren over the weekend.

As the family grieves, a witness, who took action just moments after the wreck, is opening up about the tragedy that unfolded around her and how she helped a third child who survived.

Teresa Butler is a first-grade teacher who is also trained in CPR. She was just a few cars away when the crash happened Saturday afternoon, and she says it is a scene she will never forget.

A car fire on the side of the road near Wellston was already slowing down the eastbound lanes of traffic before the sudden collision.

“It veered off into the concrete barrier, and then another white vehicle slammed into her rear end, and I looked at my husband and said I’ve got to go,” Butler said.

Butler ran to the pile-up, where Linda Irie and her grandchildren were pinned inside their car. Their family tells News 9 they were on their way to pick up lambs for an Easter photoshoot, as Linda and her daughter had a photography company together.

Butler saw Linda first. She says she was struggling to breathe in the front seat, but was still alive at the time. Then Butler noticed someone else.

“I looked in the back seat and I saw the most precious, brown-eyed brunette little girl,” said Butler.

Six-year-old Bella had been awake through the entire crash. She only suffered minor injuries, but was stuck inside the car, so Butler says it then became her job to distract the little girl until first responders arrived.

“I just took her by the hand,” she said. “I said, ‘No baby, look at me. Don’t look anywhere else, just look at me,’ and I just started asking her questions and talking to her.”

Bella's cousins, 9-year-old Brooklynn and 5-year-old Jace, died at the scene. Their grandmother Linda died later at the hospital.

The family is still too devastated to talk about what happened, but support has been overwhelming. Between two GoFundMe pages, one for the children and one for Linda, the community has already raised more than $30,000 in two days.

The family says Bella is already remembering Butler as her guardian angel.

“I just hope one day that they can get past their pain enough for me to meet Bella in person and see her,” said Butler.

State troopers tell News 9 they are looking at evidence and interviewing witnesses to determine the cause of the crash. The drivers and passengers of the other cars were not seriously hurt.