On July 17, Erin Van Horn was driving home from Turner Falls Park in Oklahoma when her 2014 GMC Yukon crashed into the back of a stopped tractor trailer.
According to People, the 40-year-old mother was driving with six kids in the back. Most of the children were friends from local soccer teams.
The truck had stopped due to traffic congestion when the Yukon struck it at a high speed. Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Dwight Durant told KFOR:
“It was a significant crash. It was a high impact crash, high-speed. It looks like the semi was in the right hand lane at a stop. And, SUV comes up behind it and runs into the back of it.”
Erin was killed in the accident, along with her 10-year-old son, Zachary Van Horn, and his friends 11-year-old Beck Kitterman and 13-year-old Lizzie Edwards.
The other three children were brought to the hospital. Lauren Van Horn and Isabella “Izzy” Kitterman, both 13, were critically injured.
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The youngest, Samantha Van Horn, 7, suffered injuries but was released the day of the accident. The driver of the tractor trailer was uninjured.
In a new collision fatality report published by the Office of Highway Patrol (OHP), reported by Tulsa World, inattentive driving was cited as the cause of the crash.
While the exact distraction has not been reported, the report states that it had an “unsafe/unlawful contributing factor.”
— Tulsa World (@tulsaworld) August 9, 2017
Two of the children who died in the accident were not wearing seat belts. It is unknown whether seat belts were worn throughout the rest of the vehicle. The investigation into the crash is ongoing.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 injured due to distracted driving in 2015 alone.
NHTSA cites texting as the largest contributor to distracted driving and notes that it can be especially dangerous at high speeds:
Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
OHP and NHTSA are both working to reduce the number of fatal accidents on the road. AAA recommends that if an activity is preventing full attention while driving, it should wait until after or happen before a journey.
KFOR reports that more than 1,000 people attended the Van Horn funeral.Screenshot/KFOR
During the funeral, Matthew noted that it has been difficult to mourn the death of his wife without also mourning the loss of the other young passengers:
“How do I celebrate the incredible lives of my wife and son without succumbing to the pain of this excruciating tragedy?”
Matthew turned to his surviving children and told them that the now family of three will continue to live in their memory:
“We’re going to continue to have just as incredible memories with mommy and Zach right beside us.”