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Published: Wednesday, 3/14/2012

Police: Mom tried to stop Oregon tot killed by car

Ethan Freck Ethan Freck

It was a winter day that felt more like spring, and Bianca Freck was cutting her daughter's hair in the backyard when her youngest son ran off Tuesday evening.

Two-year-old Ethan, who was known to wander off, ran toward Pickle Road as Mrs. Freck sprinted at full speed, behind, yelling his name, calling him to stop, Oregon police Lt. Hank Everitt said.

"He turned around and smiled and kept running," the lieutenant said.

In what officials called a terrible tragedy, the mother watched as her toddler was hit by an eastbound car driven by a 92-year-old Curtice man.

Ethan was flown to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 7:40 p.m., less than an hour after the accident on Pickle, east of Wynn Road.

"It's a 2-year-old being a 2-year-old," Oregon fire Chief Ed Ellis said. "One moment he got out of his mom's eye, he slipped away. It brings everything to light when you're raising a family -- how quickly it can change, how delicate life is."

Jerusalem Township Fire Chief Harold Stanton, who was Ethan's grandfather, described the little boy as "full of vigor," Mr. Ellis said.

No charges will be filed against the driver, James Riley, who Lieutenant Everitt said was not exceeding the 35-mph speed limit.

Mr. Riley, who was traveling home after visiting his wife at Mercy St. Charles Hospital, took Pickle instead of Navarre because he didn't like driving fast, authorities said.

Mr. Riley said he did not see Ethan until the child was about 20 feet in front of his car, according a police report.

The driver was not using his cell phone, listening to the radio, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Lieutenant Everitt wrote in his investigation report.

He wouldn't comment on whether Mr. Riley's age played a factor, adding he was not an expert on the matter.

Mr. Riley could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The accident occurred about a mile from where a memorial rests honoring Cody Van Hersett, who died in a car crash Jan. 12 at Wynn and Navarre Avenue.

In the community of Oregon, the Freck family is well-known.

In 2002, Bianca, a 1995 Clay High School graduate, and Joseph Freck III bought Divinity Lutheran Church and converted it to Freck Funeral Chapel at 1155 Wynn Rd.

The couple, who met at mortuary school, have three surviving children, according to the chapel's Web site.

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026

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