Toddler who survived I-40 crash helps family move past tragedy
Posted December 1, 2011
Updated December 2, 2011
Smithfield, N.C. — A 22-month-old girl critically injured in a head-on collision on Interstate 40 two weeks ago that killed her parents is back home in Smithfield with her grandparents.
Terri Lynn Reeves, 20, and Joshua James Witherspoon, 22, died Nov. 17 when their eastbound 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse crossed the I-40 median near the N.C. Highway 42 interchange near Clayton and hit a westbound 2005 BMW X5 SUV and 2005 Lexus.
Their daughter, Shelby Faith Witherspoon, was trapped in her car seat in the back of the Mitsubishi for 20 to 30 minutes and was later hospitalized with a skull fracture. She returned home Wednesday.
"She had a really bad place on the side of her head, and her face and her eye were really bad and swollen," her grandmother, Bonnie Reeves, said Thursday.
Now, a few scratches and a sore right leg are the only signs Shelby was even in the wreck.
"I just don't know what protected her," Reeves said. "The passenger seat, from what I understand broke and fell back on her, and I believe maybe the seat covered her. Or there was an angel covering her – somebody was with her."
Reeves said she's convinced the car seat saved her life. When the family replaced the car seat, they bought the same Evenflo Abigail model for her.
First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for the State Highway Patrol, said investigators haven't been able to determine the cause of the wreck. Troopers ruled out alcohol and excessive speeds as possible factors, and they also dismissed the possibility of a blown tire causing Terri Reeves to lose control of the car.
Reeves' brother said that he feared a temporary spare tire on the Mitsubishi had blown out, but troopers said all four tires on the car were intact and inflated.
Having Shelby back home is helping both the Reeves and Witherspoon families move on from the tragedy, Bonnie Reeves said.
"It's like I wake up for her every morning. If she wasn't here, I don't why I would wake up," she said. "I see both of (her parents) in her every day. I mean, she's got Terri's curly hair, and she's got Josh's pretty eyes. She's just like both of them."
Doctors have told Reeves that Shelby won't remember the wreck because she is so young, but Reeves said the girl occasionally asks for her mother and father. She said she doesn't know how the family will explain their deaths to her.
"We'll have to eventually. She'll understand that her mama and daddy (are) not here," Reeves said.