Berman: Rush hour accident shatters a family's hopes
Kayla White was never late to work.
When she didn't show up for her hostess job at Andiamo in Bloomfield Hills at 5 p.m. Tuesday, the general manager, Florina Boyle, worried. When she realized Kayla's cellphone was off, "I knew," said Boyle, who worked with Kayla for eight years, watching her grow from a teenager to a "lovely young woman, " and become a close friend.
Boyle called Kayla's father, Russ White, who immediately drove the route his daughter would have, expecting to find her by the side of the road. As he turned off Interstate 696 toward Telegraph, he saw flashing red lights and wreckage. "They wouldn't let me near the car," he said Wednesday afternoon.
A 69-year-old Beverly Hills man driving a Cadillac had plowed into the rear end of Kayla's 2003 Jeep Liberty with enough force to flip the Jeep, which struck another car; Kayla's car burst into flames. State police said the other driver was not paying attention to the car ahead of him. "That's basically what he told us," said Lt. Michael Shaw, the state police spokesman, who said that inattentive driving is one of the three most common causes of car accidents.
Shaw said the driver may or may not have been texting. Any distraction — eating a Big Mac, fiddling with the radio or navigation system, talking on the phone — can become a fatal mistake that can't be undone.
Shaw said the investigation is continuing and could result in charges up to negligent homicide. He said state police would seek a warrant to investigate the Cadillac driver's cellphone. Any charges are up to the prosecutor.
Only hours before, 23-year-old Kayla had wished veterans well on Facebook. She was full of vitality and joy, eight months pregnant with a son, Braedin Campbell, she had named when he was still more an idea than a baby. For months, she'd recorded food cravings and anticipation.
"I'm a mom. I was pregnant, but I've never seen anyone as excited about having a baby as Kayla was," Boyle said. "She wanted to kiss Braedin's little toes," said her mother, Susan White, sitting at the kitchen table in the Ferndale home where Kayla had grown up.
"My mom is the best," Kayla wrote on Sept. 15. "She got me a pair of sweat pants and made me no-bake cookies." On Sunday, noticing her pregnant friend's "wobbling" at work, Florina Boyle had joked with her. "I told her to go home and rest her feet."
Her older brother, Kory, remembers his sister as "amazing." She was funny, lively, loving to her friends and family. A baby shower three weeks ago drew 65 people to Andiamo. "She didn't care about the gifts but she was so happy that so many people came," her mother said. "She loved people."
Kayla and Cody Campbell were high school sweethearts who planned to marry after Braedin was born. For months, Kayla had documented her doctor appointments and the baby's ultrasounds on social media, exulting in his growth and "stubborn" refusal to pose for the camera.
It was a rush hour traffic accident, one of almost a thousand traffic deaths on Michigan roads every year. A moment of inattention. A tragedy that could so easily befall any family on any day.
In a room of reddened eyes and unbearable sadness, the message is unmistakable.
On Monday, Russ White mailed all the thank you notes Kayla had written to her 65 baby shower guests. "She wanted them all to go out at the same time," he recalled, but they weren't delivered because of the Veterans Day holiday.
He looked down at the table, as he realized "everyone is getting them today."
Service plans are incomplete.