9-year-old girl from Tuscola killed in crash

TUSCOLA - Nine-year-old Tayler Romine started her day Tuesday planning to learn the fundamentals of basketball.

En route to a basketball camp, the car she was in collided with another and Tayler, a daughter of Steven and Belinda Romine of 102 Tayler Lane, Tuscola, died of injuries she received.

An autopsy was scheduled for this morning to determine the exact cause of death.

Tayler was a back-seat passenger in a car driven by her older sister, Brittany Alexander, 18, a recent graduate of Tuscola High School.

Illinois State Police at Pesotum said Alexander was turning left from Tayler Lane, about 2 miles west of Tuscola, onto U.S. 36 at about 8 a.m. when she pulled into the path of a Douglas County sheriff's car driven by correctional officer Christopher Darr, 23.

Darr was taking Jason Shanks, 36, of Tuscola, to prison in Hillsboro, to begin serving a two-year sentence he received last week for driving while his license was revoked. The squad car was westbound when Alexander pulled in front of it.

The accident remains under investigation by state police, but Sgt. Bill Emery said Alexander was charged with failure to yield from a private drive.

Chief Deputy Craig Patton of the Douglas County sheriff's office said Darr, who has worked for the sheriff's office less than a year, was treated at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon for minor injuries and released.

But he said Darr was badly shaken by the accident, which totaled the marked squad car he was driving. Shanks also was treated at Sarah Bush and released.

Tayler and Alexander were taken to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Tayler was pronounced dead at 9 a.m. by Carle doctors. Her sister was treated and released later Tuesday.

Both were wearing seat belts, police said.

They were en route to East Prairie Middle School on South Prairie Street in Tuscola where Tayler was to take part in a basketball camp.

She had just completed the third grade at North Ward Elementary School, where the school year ended Friday.

The basketball camp, which started Monday, would have been her first.

Stefanie Griffin, a school social worker from the Eastern Illinois Area Special Education Cooperative in Charleston, was part of a team of counselors dispatched to North Ward to offer help to other students.

Griffin said about 20 students came in for counseling on Tuesday.

"What we try to do is to normalize it to a degree because we live in a death-denying society. We assume when (children) are so young, they won't be exposed. We talk to them about what to expect with the ceremony that goes with passing and just give them the information to get through this," Griffin said.

Griffin said there were about 16 girls participating in the basketball camp, which has been canceled for a couple of days.

Champaign County Deputy Coroner Bill Fabian said Steve Romine was in Florida on business at the time of the accident.

You can reach Mary Schenk at (217) 351-5313 or via e-mail at mschenk@news-gazette.com.

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