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Child Dies, 13 Hurt in Van Accident

May 29, 2001

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A speeding van crammed with children on their way home from a party plowed into several cars and flipped over, killing a 4-year-old girl and injuring 12 other children and one adult.

``He was bumping off cars like a pinball machine,″ said Laura Iannuzzi, 21, who saw Sunday night’s crash from her stoop.

Police apprehended 50-year-old Willis Mitchell of Philadelphia on Monday and said he was the van’s driver. Mitchell, who police said fled after the crash, was hospitalized with minor injuries and was being questioned by detectives. No charges had been filed Monday afternoon.

``At some point, he’ll be charged, but we’re not ready to talk about what charges yet,″ Philadelphia police Capt. Ted Sideras said.

The van struck several parked cars, hit a construction trash bin and overturned, Sideras said.

``We believe it was well in excess of the speed limit,″ he said.

Four children, ranging in age from 4 to 12, were ejected. Two children remained hospitalized Monday.

``There was a lot of kids hurt, but she was the only one dead,″ Cerita Kelly, the 4-year-old’s grandmother, told WPVI-TV. ``And she died instantly and now she’s gone.″

A 7-year-old boy with a skull fracture was in fair condition Monday at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, hospital spokeswoman Joey McCool said. A 5-year-old boy also was at the hospital in fair condition with minor injuries, such as cuts and bruises.

A woman and the other children were treated and released at several hospitals.

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