DENTON, TX (12/24/2014) — A serious car accident on Christmas Eve claimed the life of 5-year-old Moriah Modisette and left three of her family members hospitalized.
According to Denton Police, troopers were conducting a traffic stop on southbound I-35W at the 81 mile marker (south of the 2449/Ponder exit) when the accident occurred at around 2:47 p.m. DPS vehicles were safely on the shoulder and traffic was coming to a slow stop in both lanes (as per Texas’ “move over or slow down” law).
The Modisette family (from Cross Roads, TX) were in the left lane of I-35W traveling slowly southbound in their blue 1998 Toyota Camry when they were struck from behind by a white 2002 Toyota 4Runner driven by Garrett Wilhelm, of Gainesville. Wilhelm, who is in his 20s, was reportedly on his way to visit his parents in Keller.
James Modisette, who was driving the Camry, was extracted from the vehicle and taken to Denton Regional Medical Center in serious condition. The front passenger, Bethany Modisette, and the rear passenger-side passenger, 8-year-old Isabella Modisette, were also transported by ambulance to Denton Regional in stable condition. The rear driver-side passenger, 5-year-old Moriah Modisette, was taken by air ambulance (CareFlite) to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth where she later died. The driver of the other vehicle, Garrett Wilhelm, was also taken to Denton Regional Medical Center in unknown condition.
As of Friday, 12/26/2014, Bethany and Isabella Modisette had been released from the hospital. James Modisette remained hospitalized in unknown condition.
According to a news release issued by Denton Police, “cell phone distraction” may have played a role in the crash. Police say that until the investigation is complete though, they do not know if any criminal charges will be filed.
I’m eager to see if the investigation reveals that distracted driving via mobile phone use was the cause of this accident. In May of this year, the City of Denton actually voted to BAN texting (or anything other than a phone call) while driving. Unfortunately, the ban does not apply to interstate highways which run through city limits. While I can’t fathom why the statewide texting while driving ban was vetoed by Rick Perry back in 2011, I hope that Texas does not make the same mistake this year.
According to Denton police records, Garrett Wilhelm stated to officers that he was using his cell phone when the accident occurred. Reports state that Wilhelm’s mobile phone was found at the scene of the accident with a call still active.
Denton police spokesman Orlando Hinojosa said that the investigation is “still ongoing as police work to prepare their case for a Denton County grand jury.”
A gofundme.com page dedicated to Moriah Modisette was started last month in an effort to assist the Modisette family in getting a new car as well as covering some medical expenses.
Texas is one of only seven states without an active ban on texting while driving.