Horror struck on a Wise County highway Friday morning when a van carrying seven people wrecked on U.S. 81/287. One of the passengers, an infant, died in the accident.The one-vehicle rollover occurred at 9 a.m. a few miles south of Decatur. A gold minivan was southbound when it left the roadway, over-corrected, went into a side-skid and proceeded to roll two or three times before coming to a rest on its side in the median. The vehicle was passing an 18-wheeler at a slight curve in the road when the wreck occurred, said Department of Public Safety spokesperson Lonny Haschel.
Six of those on board were ejected, one of them a five-month-old baby still strapped in his car seat – which officers said was not properly secured inside the van.
A witness at the scene said the mother attempted CPR on the baby before paramedics arrived. The baby, Curtis Cooper, was taken to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur where he was pronounced dead.
The infant’s car seat sat in the median behind the wreckage of the van, a tiny plush green alligator and purple duck dangling above the empty seat. A milk bottle and a juice bottle were among the items scattered amid duffle bags and shoes tossed out of the rolling van.Wise County Medics, East Wise Fire Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and Wise County Sheriff’s deputies all responded to the accident scene.
The driver of the van, Tina Gilliam, 21, who did not have a license, told investigating officers that an 18-wheeler ran her off the road. DPS trooper Woody Gosser said he hadn’t discovered any evidence to support that claim. Gilliam, the mother of the infant, was taken to Wise Regional for her injuries.
“We got ran off the road,” said Michael Gilliam, 24, another passenger who suffered minor injuries and was taken to Wise Regional. Two more adult passengers, Vanessa Jones, 22, and Ashley Gilliam, 19, suffered serious injuries and were taken by helicopter to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. Dottie Giliam, 43, and Cierra Venson, 19, were both transported to Wise Regional for their injuries.
The family, all from Colorado Springs, Colo., were on their way to attend a funeral Saturday in Alexandria, La.
It’s unknown whether any charges will be filed against the driver. Haschel said the wreck was still under investigation.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 72 percent of car and booster seats are improperly secured or fastened. If properly secured, a child safety seat reduces chance of death to an infant by 71 percent. It reduces chance of death to a child ages one through four by 54 percent.