WILDER, Ky. -- Was it an accident or a crime?
The commonwealth attorney is gathering information on whether charges should be filed after a 3-year-old boy was killed in a crash on Interstate 275 Wednesday night.
It happened on the bridge over the Licking River after Megan Ritter’s car had a flat tire and she called family for help. While she was waiting for her aunt in the narrow breakdown lane, another vehicle changed lanes due to stopped traffic and crashed into Ritter’s, police said.
Ritter had let her son, Dawson Elder, out of the car to urinate, a family member told WCPO. He was standing on the road 6 inches from the bridge wall when the crash occurred, the family member said.
"She was doing what she thought was right," Taylor Mill Fire Department Chief John Stager said. "She was waiting for help to come. The nature of the accident and the tragic death of the toddler was just -- it’s overwhelming."
Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass said officials were conducting “a full and complete investigation.
“I think in situations like this it’s always natural to want to find somebody responsible,” Snodgrass said. "It’s really important for us to differentiate between an accident and criminal conduct. That's what we are trying to do. It’s important for the families. It’s important for the community.”
The impact between the vehicles was so severe that Taylor Mill’s fire chief called it the worst he’s ever seen. Kenton County Prosecutor Rob Sanders described the scene as “horrific.” First responders from nearly a dozen agencies were on the scene; all were offered counseling afterward.
Both Snodgrass and Stager said their own status as parents lent an extra horror to the situation.
"There were just little kids’s shoes laying in the roadway," Stager said. "You walk up on something like that and you know it involves a kid, your stomach kind of sinks when you have children."
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Dawson's family.
Snodgrass said she regularly drives on that highway and warned about the dangers there. She said it was the second fatal crash in that area in two weeks.
"I drive that stretch of road every day like so many other people do. I don’t normally talk about these kinds of cases this early, but it’s important for everyone to realize how difficult it is to drive that stretch of roadway," Snodgrass said.
Four people were transported to local hospitals following Wednesday's crash. Police did not release their names. The extent of their injuries is unknown, police said in a release.
Traffic was backed up for miles Wednesday night as investigators examined the scene.
Taylor Mill police said the investigation is ongoing and asked witnesses to contact them. Their number is (859) 581-1192.