The Butler County Coroner say a Kings Local Schools student killed in the aftermath of an 86 car pileup on I-275 in Colerain Township on Monday, died of a head injury. The official cause of death for 12 year old Sammy Reagan is "accidental head injury", according to the report by coroner Lisa Mannix.
"Sammy Reagan was a happy, vivacious 12-year old who always had a smile on her face," said school officials in a release sent to media outlets on Tuesday.
A burst of snow is being blamed for the chain reaction crash on the westbound side of the highway, around 11:30 a.m. Monday.
The 911 call center says they received more than 100 calls on the deadly accident. Local 12 obtained the audio from some of those calls. Callers try to count the number of vehicles involved and lose track. One woman says she is inside the car with her baby, and is scared that she'll be struck again. And a man tells dispatchers that he is still seeing cars running into the guardrail.
Officials say that guardrail is what likely killed Reagan, who apparently got out of her vehicle and was standing in the median when the cable barrier was struck by another vehicle, snapped, and hit her.
Official with King Local Schools say Sammy was a sixth grader at Columbia Elementary and has a twin brother and a younger brother. Counselors and psychologists are on hand at the school to help students and staff members. Safe rooms were set up for students to have a quiet place to talk and mourn.
In an early morning announcement Principal Shelley Detmer-Bogaert told students about Sammy’s death. “I know this news makes all of us very sad and that is okay. Sammy was a wonderful young lady and we will miss her.” She asked students to take good care of each other and to “be kinder than is necessary.”
Sammy loved to play soccer and ski. While a student at South Lebanon Elementary she was student council president.
“Sammy just brought sunshine everywhere she went,” teacher Mike Luke said. “She was a rare student.”
Another one of Sammy’s teachers, Jessica Collett, described Sammy as “a bright light in the classroom. She loved learning and persevered at everything.”
Everyone who talked about Sammy said how happy she was. “She was friendly with everyone,” Mrs. Collett said. “She was just so bubbly and bouncy all the time.”
Arrangements for Sammy’s funeral are pending.
The westbound lanes of I-275 reopened around 6:30 p.m. Monday. Deputies are describing this as a rare, almost freak incident - that could have been much worse.
Anne Goertzen described what happened. "All of the sudden it was just a whiteout. And just like that it seemed like it was slick, he slid."
The Goertzens were driving back to Kansas from Pennsylvania when they drove into a cloud of white mixed with brake lights. Jake Goertzen recalls, "All of the sudden the traffic was up in front of us and we had no where to go. I remember going back and forth a couple of times and pretty soon it stopped and the vehicles kept piling on to us. The semi jackknifed in back of us - good thing. That spared us a lot from getting hit more."
Keith Daniels hit the wall of white in his tractor trailer. "There was nothing i could do but I just stopped and let off the brakes and the gas and said ok. Keep it straight."
Daniels and the Goertzens weren't hurt - but 20 others were taken to area hospitals. The Goertzens described the scene as chaotic. "It looked awful. Some of the cars were driven on top of cars."
But the Goertzens say they're grateful - things didn't end badly for their family. "We just feel like it was the Lord protecting us even though everything was totaled. We just feel like it was the Lord's protecting hand that all of our lives were spared."
Local 12' Angenette Levy spoke with two deputies on Monday night- combined they have more than 60 years of service with the sheriff's office. Both said they've never seen anything like this, with more than 80 vehicles involved in one crash.
The Hamilton County sheriff's office says it could take days to piece this investigation together. Deputies are asking any witnesses to contact the sheriff's office at 825-1500.
This crash happened at about the same time as another pileup on I-75 south near Middletown. For more on that wreck, click here.