A Genoa area woman told police yesterday that she was distracted by her cell phone when her car struck and killed a 5-year-old Oregon boy after he got off a school bus in front of his Starr Avenue home.
Angelique M. Dipman, 27, of Ottawa County's Clay Township voluntarily turned herself in and was charged yesterday with aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony, in connection with the Thursday afternoon death of Dameatrius McCreary, a kindergarten student at Coy Elementary School.
The boy got off a school bus that had stopped in the eastbound lane of Starr Avenue near Berlin Avenue with its warning lights on and side-mount stop sign extended. He passed in front of the bus and was attempting to cross the westbound lane to get to his home at 2743 Starr Ave. when he was struck by Ms. Dipman's 2000 Pontiac Grand Am.
Dameatrius was taken by ambulance to nearby Fassett Middle School on Starr Avenue, where he was placed aboard a medical helicopter.
He was flown to Toledo Hospital, where he later was pronounced dead.
Ms. Dipman told police yesterday that she was driving home from the Wal-Mart store in Oregon when her ringing cell phone distracted her. She said she saw the school bus, but not its warning lights, Lt. Hank Everitt said.
The school bus driver, 31-year-old Shawna Watson, told police she could see the other westbound cars behind Ms. Dipman's car slowing down to stop - but not Ms. Dipman. Dameatrius looked at her for a moment, then looked down and began crossing the street, the 11-year bus driver told police.
When she realized Ms. Dipman's car was not going to stop, she yelled for the boy to stop and was hitting the horn just before the car struck the boy, Lieutenant Everitt said.
"I did everything I was supposed to do," Ms. Watson told The Blade. She declined further comment.
Motorist Abe Sallock, 69, of Oregon witnessed the accident from his eastbound vehicle stopped directly behind the school bus.
"I heard her hit the kid," he said, "and the kid hit the hood of the car and flew up in the air. I was shaking too much I couldn't stand up. To see the kid like that - I was crying. I got a soft heart for kids."
When Ms. Dipman's car screeched to a halt parallel to Mr. Sallock's car, he said he could see Ms. Dipman talking on her cell phone - though Ms. Dipman told police she was not on the cell phone when she struck Dameatrius. "She was on the phone when she got out of the car saying, 'I hit a kid, I hit a kid,' " Mr. Sallock said.
A jogger running along Starr Avenue, Ron Gallagher of Oregon, told police Ms. Dipman also appeared to him to be on her cell phone.
Whether she was on the phone or not, the lieutenant said the prosecutor considered Ms. Dipman's actions to be reckless, resulting in the felony charge.
Ms. Dipman, who was not wearing a seat belt, was not hurt in the accident. A field sobriety test conducted on Ms. Dipman at the scene gave no indication that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the accident, Lieutenant Everitt said, so police did not believe they had probable cause to take her in for a blood test.
"There's usually some trigger that leads you to suspect drugs or alcohol was involved," Chief Tom Gulch said. "The triggers officers generally look for they didn't find."
Ms. Dipman appeared at the Oregon police station with her attorney, Joseph Westmeyer. Oregon Municipal Court Judge Donald Z. Petroff released her on her own recognizance, but she will be supervised by the court's probation department until her scheduled arraignment in court at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Lieutenant Everitt said.
If convicted of the aggravated vehicular homicide charge, Ms. Dipman could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Ms. Dipman, the mother of two children ages 4 and 9, could not be reached for comment.
The fatal accident Thursday was not the first traffic crash for Ms. Dipman, who also has had several speeding tickets, court records show.
She has been cited at least four times for speeding in a little more than five years. Each time, she was driving at least 15 mph over the limit.
Clay Township police clocked her driving 84 mph in a 55 mph zone in 1999. Lake Township police clocked her at 71 and 70 in a 55 mph zone in 2002. Northwood police clocked her at 51 mph in a 35 mph zone in 2004.
Ms. Dipman appeared in court for the first three tickets and ended up paying a total of more than $300 in court costs and fines. In March last year, she did not show up for court, opting instead to pay the $110 in fines.
She also was cited for failing to wear a seat belt in 2003, for failing to place a child in a proper restraint in 1999, and for having no driver's license in 2004.
Ms. Dipman's name appears on at least four previous traffic accident reports, though she was not always the driver, and was not always cited for the accidents. Details were not immediately available yesterday on each report, in part because some courts were closed for Good Friday.
But according to a civil lawsuit filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court last year, Ms. Dipman's insurance company was sued after Ms. Dipman allegedly allowed an uninsured friend to drive her car. The 33-year-old woman who was driving collided with another car causing "severe personal injuries" to its driver.
The case was settled out of court after Ms. Dipman's insurer paid out $12,500, the maximum her policy allowed, said Tom Yoder, the attorney representing the plaintiff.
Police said Ms. Dipman had a valid license, was insured, and was not traveling above the 35 miles per hour speed limit at the time of Thursday's accident on Starr Avenue.
Dameatrius' grandmother, Colleen Gamble, said she wants to do everything she can to prevent this type of accident from happening to another child.
"I just want people to be aware of what's going on," she said. "This is a tragedy that should have never happened."
Visitation will be from 12 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Eggleston Meinert Pavley Funeral Home, 440 South Coy Rd. in Oregon. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Oregon Church of the Nazarene, 2350 Starr Ave.
The Oregon school district has established a memorial fund for Dameatrius through Fifth Third Bank. Donations can be made at any Fifth Third branch or sent to Coy Elementary School.
Staff writer Robin Erb contributed to this report.
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