Girl, 7, seeking help for father, killed crossing I-94

The Detroit News

Romulus —  A 7-year-old Detroit girl was killed early Sunday on Interstate 94 as she left a vehicle that had crashed to seek help for her father, who is suspected of drunk driving.

Michigan State Police said the girl was in the vehicle during the crash and was trying to get help for her father.  He lost control of his vehicle, struck an abandoned vehicle on the side of the Interstate 94 and  hit a fence before the vehicle came to rest near Merriman Road, said Lt. Michael Shaw.

Thinking her father was dead, the young girl grabbed her backpack, climbed over a fence the vehicle had breached in the crash and started walking away from the scene. She was texting 9-11 when she was killed by a driver on I-94 soon after. 

"This is something we talk about all the time, drunk driving, a 100 percent preventable incident," Shaw said. "Now ... you have a father who is in jail and just lost his daughter. You have a mother who lost her daughter. A woman who is going to live for the rest of her life for hitting someone and ending up being a 7-year-old child along the freeway.

"All of this because of poor decision-making made by an adult. This 7-year-old won’t get to go to her wedding, won’t go to a prom, won’t graduate from high school because of poor decisions."

The incident occurred around 3:35 a.m. The girl's text pinged to the nearest cell tower and went to Romulus Police Department. But it did not give an exact location of the girl, only a general area about a mile away from the crash scene, Shaw said.

Romulus police contacted MSP and asked them to send troopers to the area to help find a 7-year-old girl who needed help.

Around the same time the young girl began walking away from the scene, a female motorist pulled over on the freeway and called Michigan State Police dispatch, telling them that she believed she had struck a pedestrian or something else on the road near I-94 and Inkster. A trooper found no damage to her vehicle and no one on the side of the road.

"Unfortunately, as (the girl) was crossing I-94, she was struck by the vehicle that had initially called in and said they believed they were involved in a traffic crash," Shaw said.

The girl was found in the center median, about 50-150 feet away from her father's car. The 7 year old was killed instantly, police said.

 A short time later, troopers learned that the Romulus police  had been investigating a crash on eastbound I-94 near Merriman involving a suspected drunk driver. That's when the scope of the investigations started to emerge.

"It wasn't until 15 or 20 minutes later that all three of incidents, the officers determined, were connected," Shaw said. "It was later determined that the 7-year-old was actually in the vehicle being operated by the drunk driver and the drunk driver was her father."

Polices found the girl's father in the car. They had to help him out of the car and administered field sobriety tests.

He was processed on the scene for drunk driving, Shaw said. He was taken to a hospital for a blood draw and now is in the custody of Romulus police, Shaw said.

Results of the blood test were not immediately available and it was unclear what the level of the man's blood-alcohol content was. He has not been charged.

The woman who struck the child was released, Shaw said.

Both police agencies are working to submit a warrant packet to the Wayne Count Prosecutor's Office by Monday or Tuesday, Shaw said.