The village of Camden is mourning the deaths of a mother, father and 3-year-old girl killed Tuesday in a crash when witnesses said a semi tractor-trailer an a red light at the corner of U.S. 127 and State Route 725.
Meantime, law enforcement is investigating whether the semi was speeding when it reportedly blew threw a stop and caused a chain-reaction accident involving three other vehicles.
The 2004 Jeep Cherokee occupied by Camden residents Schon and Melissa Hudson, both 34, and their daughter Emerie was T-boned by a semi driven by Brian M. Murphy, 61, of Centerville, Ind., according to Preble County Sheriff’s Office press release.
The Hudsons were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident which happened just before 3 p.m. Tuesday when Murphy’s rig was southbound on 127 and the Hudsons were traveling eastbound on 725.
“Tragic for the family. Tragic for the kids left behind,” Preble Shawnee Supt. Matt Bishop said Wednesday of Melissa’s two surviving daughters, both elementary school students. “I just know that the school and the community is going to do everything they can to support that family emotionally, financially whatever it takes to get them through this terrible time.”
Murphy was taken to Miami Valley Hospital with what law enforcement said was serious injuries after a two-hour effort to extricate him from a 2005 International semi.
“It is tough,” Camden police Chief Matt Spurlock said of first responders, some of whom knew the victims. “And we got a lot of resources in place for once they leave the scene — if they need people to talk to.
“We’re gonna make sure that they talk about it and don’t keep it bottled up. That’s the most important thing. That’s the roughest part about the job right there: when you see things like this sometimes you can’t erase it from your memory.”
Murphy’s semi also hit two vehicles driven by John Murray, 50, of Camden, and Paul Stiver, 47, of Germantown.
After hitting the Hudsons’ Jeep, police said the semi hit a 2002 Honda van that was going northbound on 127 and causing the van to hit a 1999 Toyota car which was traveling in the same direction.
Murray and Stiver were treated and released at the scene, according to law enforcement.
U.S. 127 at state Route 725 was closed for roughly 7 ½ hours for the investigation by sheriff’s deputies and Camden police.
Spurlock denied this news organization’s request for surveillance video taken by two nearby businesses that may show the accident.
The Camden police investigation with assistance from the Preble County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing, but Spurlock did say they have pulled the semi’s “black box” and that preliminary indications are the rig was traveling faster than the 50 mph posted speed limit.
The case eventually will be given to Preble County Prosecutor Martin Votel to decide if Murphy will face criminal charges, according to Sheriff Michael Simpson. Preble County grand juries generally meet once early in each month.
Spurlock said the preliminary investigation pointed to inattentive driving by the semi operator as the cause of the accident, but added, “I’m not going to point fingers until we get through this.”
In 2003, Murphy pleaded guilty to having no valid driver’s license and an expired license plate, according to Wayne County (Ind.) Superior Court 3 records.
Murphy also had three convictions for failure to use a seat belt, the latest from June 23, 2016, according to court records.
Spurlock said Murphy’s semi belongs to Family Tradition, LLC, a Richmond, Ind.-based trucking company.
“Legally, we are not allowed to comment on anything until after the investigation is done,” said a woman who answered the phone at Family Tradition.” She said the small, family-owned business couldn’t comment about driver records and policies after crashes except that “everything is always kept up to date per (Dept. of Transportation) standards.”
Attorney Douglas Rennie said he represents Family Tradition but that he had “no comment” because the incident is still under investigation.
Melissa Hudson was a substitute teacher in the Preble Shawnee Local School district.
“Just an outstanding person,” Bishop said. “Great work ethic. A drive to help students. A drive to help the school and make it a better place — just a very personable individual.”
Bishop said Melissa was active in a parent-teacher organization and her two older daughters are fourth- and sixth-graders at West Elton Elementary.
“This morning we made sure we had counselors available in both the elementary and the intermediate school — school counselors also spiritual advisors to make sure the staff’s taken care of — those are the ones who deal with our students on a daily basis,” Bishop said. “We want to make sure they are OK first and foremost. And that they are able to work with our kids through this.”
Schon Hudson worked at US Bank, according to a LinkedIn profile.
A fund-raising webpage set up to help with the Hudsons’ funeral expenses claimed Melissa was pregnant and expecting a boy.
“Schon and Melissa were caring, kind, and joyful people who brought happiness to their family and friends,” the webpage said. “Their young daughter, Emerie, was a sweet, shining toddler.”
This news organization has requested information about other crashes at the intersection several online commenters said is dangerous.
“Ladies and gentlemen, a tragic accident has happened in our small community,” EMS Capt. Stephanie Forrer wrote on the Camden Somers-Township Fire & EMS Facebook page. “I would like everyone to take a silent moment of prayer for the family and friends who lost their loved ones today. Our hearts are broken, but we must keep moving.”