Sunday, August 08, 1999

'Ordinary kids' jump in as child hurt




BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Traffic was bad on the interstate, so the two students from McNicholas High School, who call themselves “ordinary kids,” took some side roads. They were on their way to the mall when they found themselves in the middle of a tragedy.

        Matthew Trapp, 17, was driving, rounding a bend on East Broadway Avenue in Loveland. He saw a car stopped in the middle of the road, right behind a truck. As he pulled to the side of the road, his friend Amanda Miller, also 17, was already opening the car door.

        “She basically hopped out of the car before I had it stopped,” he says.

        A little girl was lying by the side of the road. “I tried to get her attention by talking to her, touching her,” Amanda says. Then the teen-ager put her face down to the little girl's mouth. “She wasn't breathing.” Putting her fingers to the child's throat, the teen-ager found “a faint pulse.”

Quick thinking
        This all took place in a matter of seconds. “A man kept telling me to leave her alone.” She knew what he was thinking. Paralysis. “But she wasn't breathing. Her only chance to live was to get some air.” So Amanda pressed her mouth over the child's, just as she had learned to do in her Red Cross lifesaving class.

        “C'mon, baby, wake up,” she heard a woman say in the background. Still, she continued, trying to breathe for Alesia Hill, 8, who last Tuesday fell into the path of a delivery truck. Amanda didn't give up until the paramedics arrived. The child was flown to Children's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

        Whatever chance little Alesia Hill had for survival was because of Amanda, according to the Loveland police officer who investigated the accident. Officer Fred Barnes says Amanda was “very composed, even in her statement to us.” It was only later, he says, that “she and I kinda broke up.”

        Broke up? But you're a tough guy, right?

        “Absolutely,” he says.

        I believe him, but I should note that he is also the man who told me that he wanted to check first with Amanda “to see how she was holding up” before I called her.

        After an investigation by Loveland and Ohio State police, Officer Barnes says, “the driver will not be cited. It just wasn't his fault. He couldn't have changed what happened.”

No more details
        Nor could Amanda. Cheerleader, lifeguard and, according to an unimpeachable source, “the best sister.”

        Matthew and Amanda have brought her brother, Brad, 12, to the restaurant where we meet. Brad, under pressure from me, will admit that his sister's room is messy.

        But that's it. “She is a very nice person.”

        I suspected as much.

        Amanda and Matthew watched television news that Tuesday evening, just to confirm what they already knew. They have not tried to get in touch with the little girl's family, nor have they sought any further information.

        “I don't feel like I need all the details,” Amanda says.

        Probably she has more detail already than most people could handle. She can picture “a sweet little face with pretty blue eyes,” and when she closes her own eyes she still sees a partially eaten Hostess strawberry shortcake by the side of the road.

        She sits across the table from me behind a chocolate milkshake, which she hasn't been able to finish. Twisting her hands a little, she says the obvious thing. “I wish I could have saved her.” But she is qualified to say one other thing, something most of us ordinary people would like to be able to say in a variety of life circumstances — some as crucial as this one, some more trivial.

        “I did everything I could.”

        Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears on WVXU radio, NPR's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com

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