A local middle school teacher's first instinct after seeing a car crash happen before her eyes Tuesday was to stop and help the family involved, which included a toddler, in any way she could.
Alisa Parrish, a Russellville resident, has been a teacher at Caldwell County Middle School for two years.
"I was traveling home from work via I-24 and I noticed a vehicle in front of me suddenly swerve and run off the side of the road," said Parrish, 50. "It went airborne and crashed into the field off of Exit 56."
According to a Kentucky State Police news release, Trooper Daniel Holland responded to the single-vehicle crash at 4:20 p.m. on eastbound I-24 at the 56-mile marker. KSP's preliminary investigation revealed a 2007 silver Chevrolet Cobalt driven by Jaryonlee Wells, 24, of Omaha, Nebraska, abruptly exited the western part of the roadway and collided with trees.
Parrish and motorists from two other vehicles stopped after witnessing the crash.
"I got to the car first and as I was getting there, a gentleman came out of the car screaming for help," Parrish said. "He had gotten the baby out of the backseat and laid her down to render help to the passenger."
"When I got through the barbed wire fence, I picked up the baby and made sure she was OK."
Parrish said by the time they got to the passenger, she had already died. Parrish called 911 and waited with the family.
"There was really nothing we could do at that point except try to keep them calm until medical help arrived," Parrish said.
Caldwell County Superintendent Nate Huggins said it was heartwarming to hear Parrish stopped for strangers in need of critical help.
"That's what you expect people to do," Huggins said. "I went and shook her hand and told her I was proud of her."
"I told her that her actions were heartwarming and that it was fantastic that she would do that to help another person."
KSP reported Heidi Renter, 22, and 1-year-old Elyonha Wells, also of Omaha, Nebraska, were passengers in the Cobalt. The Caldwell County Coroner's Office pronounced Renter dead at the scene.
Jaryonlee Wells and Elyonha Wells were flown by medical helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They are in stable condition. Trooper Holland's investigation is ongoing.
"Watching the whole accident play out, I guess a part of me just knew I was supposed to stop and help these people," Parrish said.
"Like I said, there wasn't much we could do but we stayed with them and wrapped the baby in a blanket to keep her warm."
"I just wish there would have been more we could have done to help the passenger."
It was the first time Parrish had ever witnessed a crash.
"I think that was the hardest part," Parrish said. "As a teacher, I'm prepared for most things, but that was probably one of the most traumatic things I've seen."
Still, she said her prior military background was useful in the situation.
"I had been trained on some triage training, just to assess the situation," Parrish said. "The driver didn't appear to be bleeding so I went for the baby."
"I just felt that the hand of God was on that baby because there was so much in that backseat that could have injured her. To watch that wreck and to see her come out with only a scratch just made it clear that God was protecting her."