ELYRIA — A 6-year-old from Berea died Thursday, days after she was involved in a six-car crash at state Route 57 and Cleveland Street.
Alia Bailey, 6, died at Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center surrounded by family and friends. She was flown to Cleveland after she sustained several injuries in the multiple-vehicle crash just before 2 p.m. Sunday.
Police have charged Donald Buchs, 24, of Elyria, with operating a vehicle while intoxicated after he appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Capt. Chris Costantino said Thursday that the crash is under investigation and police are awaiting the results of the toxicology report.
Alia was in the car with her mother, Nancy Burnett, 47, on their way to have lunch at Long John Silver’s when Buchs rear-ended their 2015 Ford Explorer in the left turn lane of the southbound lanes of Route 57.
Four other cars were involved in the crash, all stopped at the intersection. Buchs was not injured in the crash. His truck, a Ford F-250, eventually came to a rest after it went off the road and struck a chain-link fence.
Burnett suffered multiple fractures in her leg and is recovering in Cleveland.
“She was a beautiful little girl, and we appreciate all the love from the community and the support,” said Rachel Workman, Alia’s aunt.
Alia, a first-grader at Grindstone Elementary School in Berea, charmed everyone around her with her big smile, her family said. She was involved in soccer, dance classes and Girl Scouts and had a 16-year-old brother, Charles Bailey.
Shelia Phalen, a board member of the Grindstone Parent Teacher Association, said she got to know Alia when she was crowned Little Miss Berea last summer.
“You never saw this little girl without a smile on her face. There was never a day that she wouldn’t give you a hug and tell you that she loves you,” Phalen said. “It’s a sad day for everyone.”
Phalen said grief counselors would be at the Berea Schools to talk with teachers and students today.
Alia’s family remained hopeful this week that the first-grader would recover after the accident, but she never regained consciousness.
A benefit is scheduled for Alia and her family 2 to 9 p.m. Feb. 18 at St. John Lutheran Church, 1140 West River Road N. in Elyria. The benefit is a potluck with a $10 entry fee, a 50/50 raffle and a basket raffle.
Anyone who would like to be involved should contact Workman at (440) 452-8763. A GoFundMe page has also been set up for Alia’s family.
Eddie Sabbah, a business owner in Elyria and a close friend of the family, was heartbroken by the loss. He said his son, Vincent, 8, was one of Alia’s best friends.
“It’s hard to describe the way I feel,” Eddie Sabbah said. “A piece of my heart is gone.”
Sabbah is taking donations for her fundraiser at his business, Eddie’s Club, 1433 Lowell St.
Costantino said police are doing a “thorough and detailed investigation” of the crash and more details would be released as they become available.
“We continue to have her in our thoughts and prayers,” Costantino said.
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