Two families are mourning the loss of loved ones, and a toddler is fighting for her life after a deadly crash south of Mitchell Wednesday.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol says that 23-year-old Sara Claggett was driving a minivan with her two-year-old daughter Lauryn just before 4:30 Wednesday afternoon when the van crossed the center line and hit 82-year-old Donald Geidel’s pick up. Both Geidel and Claggett died in the crash and two-year-old Lauryn was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Geidel was a father, grandfather and a great grandfather from Dimock, South Dakota.
Sara Claggett was a young mother who had recently moved back to the Mitchell area.
While its still unknown what caused the two drivers to collide, there's no question they will both be missed.
“Sara was one of the happiest people I knew and one of the best friends I ever had. There's not one time I wouldn't call her and she wouldn't show up or answer and yesterday when she didn't answer I knew something was up," Sara Claggett's friend Alex Smith said.
Smith said she heard the crash come over the police scanner late Wednesday afternoon.
"We heard an accident and we heard it was a white van and I knew between there and the mile markers and what highway she'd been on and I just had a horrible, horrible feeling," Smith said.
That horrible feeling turned into unmentionable emotions after Smith found out her friend lost her life in the crash and that Claggett's two-year-old daughter was seriously injured. The young mother and daughter had just visited Smith on Sunday when Claggett told Smith about her new boyfriend.
"She was probably the most happy I've seen her in a long time the last time I've seen her," Smith said.
That's the way Smith says she'll remember Claggett - as a happy and caring mother.
"She was always smiling. She was a great mom. She cared about her daughter and making sure her daughter was laughing and happy," Smith said.
Even as she remembers Claggett, Smith also worries about two-year-old Lauryn who was rescued from the fiery crash by students passing by.
"She's a great person and her daughter still needs prayers so she can get through this. Even after the physical healing of course there's still going to be the mental anguish and healing to go through and that's where my thoughts are right now," Smith said.
The family of 82-year-old Donald Geidel who was driving the pick-up truck sent KELOLAND News this statement:
"Donnie Geidel was a devoted father, grandfather, & great grandfather. He loved to spend time with his family out on his farm and was a devoted Christian. He will be greatly missed by many."
Family members say Geidel was wearing his seat belt and always would put it on even when he was driving from one field to another.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol says it is still investigating why Claggett's vehicle drifted across the centerline.