First responders deal with haunting images of I-275 crash that killed 3-year-old Dawson Elder

'Horrific scene that no one can un-see'

WILDER, Ky. – First responders aren’t just heroes, they’re human, too.

That can make dealing with the death of a 3-year-old boy in an horrific crash disturbing and heartbreaking for even the most veteran of them.

The impact of the two vehicles on the I-275 bridge over the Licking River Wednesday night was shocking, said Taylor Mill Fire Chief John Stager.

“I’ve been involved in public safety since 1984. I’ve been in the military, and this is one of the worst events I’ve ever witnessed,” Stager said.

In a tweet, Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders asked for prayers “for police and firefighters from Wilder and nearby agencies who responded to the tragic crash on 275 bridge … Absolutely horrific scene that no one can un-see! Prayers for victims too.”

One image in particular still haunted Stager the next day.

“The thing that got me the most was the damage and then there was the little boy’s shoes … right next to the car,” Stager said.

“I don’t know if he had shoes on or wasn’t wearing shoes — there were just little kid’s shoes lying in the roadway. You walk up on something like that and you know it involves a kid and your stomach kind of sinks when you have children.”

Investigators go over the crash scene.

Dawson Eider was killed when his mother’s broken-down car was hit from behind, police said. Megan Ritter’s car had a flat tire and she was parked in the narrow breakdown lane waiting for help. Another vehicle changed lanes due to stopped traffic and crashed into Ritter’s, police said.

Ritter had let her son out of the car to urinate, a family member told WCPO. Dawson was standing on the road 6 inches from the bridge wall when the crash occurred, the family member said.

First responders from nearly a dozen agencies were on the scene and they were offered counseling and peer support Thursday afternoon to talk over what they’d seen.

“Sometimes it’s a round-robin sort of thing,” Stager said. “You go around …  and sometimes you’ll hear that other people are thinking the same thing or some times they feel better talking one-on-one.”    

Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass will have to determine if charges are warranted.

“Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes people lose their lives and nobody did anything criminally wrong.  We need to find out in this case, if that’s the scenario, or if somebody is responsible,” Snodgrass said.

GoFundMe page has been set up for Dawson's family.

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