Sunday, April 13, 2003

Crash kills mother of two


Two families left shattered

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE]
MONROE - Neighbors are saddened by the death of a mother in a crash, and concerned about the two children she leaves behind.

Malinda Brombaugh, 35, of Monroe, was westbound on Ohio 73 near Waynesville when she crossed the center line shortly after 8 p.m. Friday and crashed head-on with another driver, John Huddleson, 61, of Waynesville.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. Huddleson and four children, including Brombaugh's daughter Sara, 8, remain in the hospital.

The death leaves neighbors concerned for Sara and her brother.

They say the children took after their mother, who was always friendly and polite. Because of her rearing, the children often offered to do chores for their elderly neighbors.

"With the children, it's such a sad situation," neighbor Mary Rawlins said. "I'm sure it's going to be very difficult for them."

The children's father, Scott, was working at the General Motors plant in Moraine when the crash happened near the Ohio 42 intersection. He couldn't be reached by telephone Saturday.

Neighbor Betty Steigerwald knows that many were hurt in the crash, but she can't stop worrying about Sara and her brother.

"It's going to be sad situation. (They're) like any other children who are dependent on their mother," she said.

According to Trooper Kevin Bryant of the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Lebanon Post, Brombaugh had traveled Friday to Wilmington to pick up a friend's three children for a sleepover.

Witnesses behind her during the trip home said Brombaugh's vehicle kept weaving across the center line. Brombaugh's car was traveling up a hill when the crash occurred.

Sara is in fair condition at Children's Medical Center in Dayton. The other three children, whose parents are Chris and Dawn Marshall of Wilmington, are at the same hospital.

Alex Distel, 7, is in critical condition. Cory Distel, 9, is in serious condition. Madelynn Marshall, 2, is in good condition. Their parents could not be reached for comment.

Huddleson is in critical condition at Miami Valley Hospital at Dayton. Doctors have told him that he's facing six months of in-house, around-the-clock treatment after he is released.

His son Scott said that Huddleson endured five hours of surgery after the crash. He has three plates in his left arm and a pin connecting his femur to his hip socket, and both ankles were crushed.

"That's rough to deal with," Scott Huddleson said. But, "we have to get our father back to health as quickly as possible. We're looking at a long, tough battle."

Bryant said Cory Distel was the only person conscious when he arrived to see two mangled vehicles along the highway.

"It's just something different when there's kids involved," he said. "I pray for them but I have a job to do, too. They're just young, and they're innocent, and in the wrong place at the wrong time."

It will take some time before investigators know why Friday night's crash happened.

Test results will determine Brombaugh's blood-alcohol level. Bryant said the haphazard driving might have been because of Brombaugh trying to eat or discipline the children. Perhaps there was a medical condition to blame, he said.

E-mail svela@enquirer.com




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