A 13-year-old girl was killed when the minivan she was driving crashed head-on into a semi truck on Ohio 235 near New Carlisle on Thursday night.
The teen was identified as Sky Lhamon, of Sidney, by the Shelby County Department of Job and Family Services in a news release on Friday.
In the release, the agency said Lhamon was in permanent custody of the county’s children services department.
Lhamon’s foster mother alerted the agency around 8 p.m. Thursday that Lhamon had taken the foster mother’s van and left. Law enforcement was notified, and a report was made, according to information from the agency.
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The agency said Lhamon had only been placed with the foster mother for a couple of months, but there was no immediate crisis that led to the tragic crash.
The Chrysler Town and Country minivan was headed north on Ohio 235 near mile post 9 in Pike Twp. around 9 p.m. on Thursday when the driver went left of center and into the path of the semi, which unsuccessfully tried to avoid it, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Springfield Post.
The semi dragged the van between 50 and 100 feet, the trooper said.
Calls to 911 described the chaotic scene just after the accident.
“There’s a bad accident, car over, hit by a semi,” one caller says with panic in his voice. “On its top – can’t see the driver. Airbags deployed.”
At one point during the call, the caller yells at someone to step back from a vehicle because it started smoking. He tells the dispatcher the semi truck is carrying what he believes to be natural gas.
“Yeah, I don’t see a driver,” the caller says. “I can’t see a driver. I can’t see if she’s – or he’s got any passengers.”
Another call adds to the picture of the accident’s severity.
“Accident, multiple vehicle, semi-involved. You might send a couple squads,” the second caller says.
Lhamon was pronounced dead at the scene.
Natural gas that was being carried by the semi spilled onto the roadway, and HAZMAT crews were called out to clean up.
Ohio 235 was closed for several hours and reopened by 2:30 a.m. Friday.
The highway patrol said in a news release that both Lhamon and the driver of the semi truck, identified as 52-year-old Johnny York of Connersville, Ind., were wearing seat belts at the time of crash.
York sustained minor injuries and was treated at the scene.
“It is always tragic when a young life is cut short. We wish to express our deepest sympathy to the family of Sky especially to her two sisters,” the Shelby County JFS said in its news release.
The agency said the two sisters mentioned in the release are biological siblings, but they are also in foster care.
“Additionally, the foster parent has suffered a loss in the death of someone who became a family member,” the release said. “We also wish to express our concern for the driver of the other vehicle as he attempts to deal with this situation.”
Dave Jenkins, the Children Services Administrator with Shelby County JFS, said the agency is small and tight-knit with 11 employees. He said the last time he saw Lhamon was just a few days ago.
“We got to know Sky very well,” he said. “We’ve had pretty much consistent involvement with her for about the last two years.”
Jenkins explained that reunification with Lhamon and her biological family was not possible, which is why she was in the agency’s custody.
“Her goal would’ve been adoption and was adoption. We were seeking an adoptive placement for her,” he said.
He said Lhamon had an outgoing and engaging personality and made friends fairly quickly.
“She would sit down and have a conversation with you about anything,” he said.
But Jenkins also mentioned Lhamon had experienced a lot of “pain, grief and loss in her 13 years,” a lot of which occurred before the agency became involved with her case.
He said he didn’t have an answer for why Lhamon would be in Pike Twp. or why she would take her foster mother’s van.
“You don’t know what to think,” he said. “It’s like it’s not real.”
Lhamon was a student in the Sidney City School District, the agency said. This news organization contacted the school district but was unable to get comment before deadline.
The crash is under investigation, according to highway patrol. Children Services said details about services for Lhamon were not available Friday afternoon.