Niles community grieves loss of two girls after accident

The Niles community is grieving following a crash that took the lives of two young sisters, and seriously injured a third.

The accident happened at approximately 4 p.m. on Tuesday at the intersection of M-60 and Leet Road in Howard Twp. Police said Sarah Michael, 19 - a baby-sitter driving the three young sisters - blew past a stop sign.

Her car was then broadsided by a Dodge RAM pick-up truck travelling around 55 mph along M-60.

Both drivers were treated for minor injuries, and Penelope True, 4, remains in critical but stable condition.

School officials said that the next 72 hours are crucial for Penelope because of massive skull fractures.

Her two sisters Juliana Brown, 9, Sophia True, 6, did not pull through, creating heartache in the school’s classrooms.

"I was just praying it was not one of our students," said Michelle Asmus, principal at the Howard Ellis School.

But Asmus knew the crash was both close in time and proximity.

The fatal blow happened just eight minutes after Howard Ellis School let out, less than a half-mile from its elementary campus.

Before long, the worst fears were confirmed and the school’s crisis team was put into place.

"We had counselors in the bus lot as the students came off of the buses,” said Asmus. “We had counselors in the parking lot in case parents or students had any concerns getting out of their cars."

Once inside the school, there were hugs and a lot tears. Teachers read a statement, and students shared stories about two girls who this school had learned to love.

"They were happy girls, happy girls,” said Asmus. “Always had a smile on their faces. Bubbly, caring, befriended many."

It has been a long week for the Niles community; on Sunday it lost Jazmyne Rodriquez, 15, a Niles High School freshman who crashed a stolen car during a police pursuit.

With flags at half-staff, the district remembers the brightness of life during dark somber days.

"I take comfort in that they were both with us yesterday, in our care, in our schools and being loved and cared by our staff members. That's what gives us comfort right now," said Asmus.

Michigan state police say all three girls were properly restrained, with Penelope, the youngest, sitting in a booster seat.

Drugs and alcohol are not suspected here.

However charges could be filed against that baby-sitter for negligence in blowing the stop sign

A neighborhood resident told NewsCenter 16 that the intersection is proned to accidents. However, the Michigan Department of Transportation says there have only been eight accidents in the last eight years at this intersection, none of which were fatal until now.

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