MASARYKTOWN — What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life turned out to be one of the worst for Brandi Stalter. Instead of giving birth to her third child Tuesday morning, she lost a daughter in a tragic twist of fate.
Stalter's 4-year-old daughter, Haleigh, was in the backseat of a friend's car stopped on U.S. 41 S when a 2006 Mack dump truck plowed into the car's rear.
Paramedics rushed Haleigh to Spring Hill Regional Hospital, where she later died from her injuries.
At that same hospital, Brandi Stalter was about to deliver her daughter. The operation was delayed following word of the accident.
"We're all devastated by the whole thing but it's been real hard on Brandi," said David Harris, a family friend.
Harris' sister, Susan Gail Eggers, had agreed to watch Haleigh and her 3-year-old sister, Laura Lee, while Stalter went to the hospital for a scheduled caesarean section. They were headed to Eggers' home on Garfield Avenue when the crash occurred.
The Florida Highway Patrol said that around 8:10 a.m., Susan Eggers, 46, was waiting to turn her 1998 Ford Crown Victoria left off the highway onto Palacky Street when it was struck from behind by a northbound dump truck being driven by Francisco Heredia Hernandez.
The impact crushed the rear of the car, violently tossing Eggers, the two girls and Eggers' 17-year-old son, Adam, around the vehicle. Haleigh, who was crushed between the front and rear seats, took the brunt of the collision.
"It was a horrible mess," said Crystal Eggers, 28, Susan Eggers' sister-in-law, who arrived at the scene moments after the crash to find Susan shouting for someone to get the children out of the wreck.
Crystal Eggers said she looked into the car to find Haleigh unconscious and bleeding severely.
"She was pinned in real tight," Eggers said. "We tried to help her but there was just no response. It's the saddest thing I've ever been part of."
Susan Eggers was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. According to Harris, she is being treated for internal injuries and a head wound. Laura Lee and Adam Eggers were also taken to Spring Hill Regional Hospital, where they were treated for minor injuries.
Crystal Eggers said that although the girls were buckled in with seat belts, neither were in car seats as required by law. Neither Susan Eggers nor Adam Eggers were wearing seat belts.
According to witnesses, Hernandez, 46, was driving a dump truck owned by Pacheco Enterprises, a Tampa company. Calls to Pacheco were not returned Tuesday. FHP said that charges are pending in the accident.
Harris said that no decision has been made as to when Brandi Stalter will have her baby.
"It's going to be day to day for a while," he said. "She's been through a lot."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.