A young Riverside military couple continues to deal with the aftermath nearly two years after their car was rammed in a Greene County highway wreck that claimed the life of their infant daughter and forever changed their oldest daughter’s life.
Seven members of the White family were among nine injured in the 2021 wreck on Interstate 675 while heading home to The Prairies, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Riverside housing. Kristen White’s car was slammed by a vehicle operated by an alleged drunk driver from Dayton who was traveling about 100 miles per hour, prosecutors have said.
White’s five-week-old daughter, Faye, died a few days later from injuries. Her older sister, Emma — now 11 — had to be resuscitated and multiple injuries have left her permanently disabled, requiring physical therapy, daily special care and now she is in line to get a service dog to aid with her day-to-day activities, White said.
“Obviously losing any child is hard, but she was (just) weeks old when this happened,” said White, a 30-year-old Kettering native. “And on top having another child who has permanent disability … it’s just been a nightmare.
“Seeing Emma struggle with everything that she has now, it’s just been unbelievable,” she added. “Watching a normal, active 10-year-old go from running around and climbing everywhere and being super active to not being able to do normal daily activities like even showering by herself, it’s been extremely difficult.”
The wreck led to multiple felony charges against driver Samuel Lawson, 32. Lawson pleaded not guilty to 18 counts and remains in custody at the Greene County Jail, county records show.
His case was the subject of a Friday hearing attended by Kristen White and her husband, Dylan, a 31-year-old 2nd class petty officer in the Navy.
The wreck occurred in a construction zone on northbound I-675 between the Wilmington Pike and Dorothy Lane exits in Sugarcreek Twp. about 9 p.m. May 23, 2021, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol records.
Kristen White’s 2021 Honda Odyssey carrying six passengers and Dayton resident Rodney Beard’s 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage were stopped in traffic due to lane closures when Lawson’s 2015 Ford Edge rammed White’s van, spinning it and causing it to strike Beard’s vehicle before ending up in the median, the OSHP crash report states.
Lawson’s SUV then collided with Beard’s car as both were spinning and both were facing southbound in the northbound lanes when they came to a stop, state records show.
The crash report states that Lawson was under the influence of medication, drugs or alcohol. Blood was taken from him and the report lists Lawson’s test results at .332, more than four times the legal limit.
Lawson was indicted in January 2022. He is charged with three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, four counts of aggravated vehicular assault, eight counts of vehicular assault, two counts of OVI and one count of reckless operation of a motor vehicle, according to court records.
For several months, Lawson’s attorneys have sought to get evidence collected just after the wreck tossed out of his case. Friday’s evidence suppression hearing focused on a blood test administered to Lawson.
His attorney, Jon Paul Rion, said Friday that “circumstantial evidence” and witness testimony indicated Lawson was sober at the time of the crash. Rion added that inaccuracies in collecting and testing, and transporting the blood sample may have led to an inaccurate test.
“We believe there’s some scientific flaws with the (blood) alcohol test in this case,” he said. “One way to explain the inaccuracy is the amount of time that these vials sit in a very warm environment can cause chemical changes within the blood, which would then make the test unreliable.”
The Greene County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the case.
Once the transcripts from Friday’s hearing are completed, the prosecution and the defense have two weeks each to file closing arguments before Greene County Common Pleas Court Judge Adolfo Tornichio decides whether the evidence should be allowed.
Emma’s road ahead
Lawson’s car hit the back and right side of White’s Odyssey, where Emma was sitting, her mother said. The girl went into cardiac arrest, had brain bleeding, a spinal cord injury, a ruptured spleen and a collapsed lung, among other injuries, according to White.
Because the wreck was in late May, Emma missed the last few days of the school year, her mom said.
“And the beginning of the year last year she did home school. So the intervention specialist came to our house every day after school” until about Christmas 2021 and then “she started going back a couple hours a day until the end of the year,” White said.
“And then after Christmas this year she started going back a couple of more hours,” she said. “So, she goes from the beginning of school until about lunch time. She’s still not doing a full day, but we’re getting there.”
Working with Mad River schools and its Neighborhood Bridges program, White said she reached out to 4 Paws for Ability, an organization that helps people with disabilities acquire task-trained service dogs.
It’s been a long process, but the Whites were able to raise $20,000, their portion to help pay for the service dog.
White said she expects to acquire the dog in 2025 after extensive training.
“After they find a dog that might be suitable for her ... we’ll go to a placement class so that Emma and me and my husband can learn the commands for the dog and basically how the training would work,” White said. “And then she gets to take the dog home.”