A Siloam Springs boy who was involved in a suspected drunk driving accident on Jan. 3 that ended with the vehicle submerged upside down in the fountain near the city's welcome sign has died, according to Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith.
Tyner Levi Hammett, 11, died Tuesday at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., Smith said. His stepfather, Michael Guest, 38, was arrested in connection with driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a minor after the accident, according to a Jan. 4 press release from the Siloam Springs Police Department.
Guest has been released from the Benton County Jail on bond as of Wednesday and will have a court date on Feb. 11. Smith said that it is "highly" likely that Guest's charges will be upgraded to DWI, negligent homicide, which is a felony that carries from five to 20 years in prison.
The Siloam Springs Police and Fire departments responded to a call of a traffic incident at the intersection of U.S. Highway 412 and East Main Street around 10 p.m. on Jan. 3, the press release states. Upon arrival, they found an overturned and submerged vehicle in the pond and fountain area. The emergency responders located the boy's stepfather outside of the vehicle, later identified as Guest, who told officers that his stepson was still inside the vehicle.
Members of the fire and police departments quickly entered the water and in a joint effort, managed to turn the vehicle on to its side and successfully remove the child, the release states. Guest was then taken to Siloam Springs Regional Hospital to receive treatment and was then taken into custody at the Benton County Jail, the release states.
Hammett was also transported to the Siloam Springs Regional Hospital and shortly after, he was transferred to St. Francis Hospital.
Tim Hornbuckle, who is the principal at Siloam Springs Intermediate School said that this is the first time for the intermediate school to lose a student in some time, including the six years he has been in the position. As a principal working with students on a daily basis, it is especially heartbreaking for something like this to occur because you form a relationship with them; regardless of how much you know each one on a personal level, they're still our students, he said.
School administrators told students about Hammett's involvement in the accident at the beginning of the day on Tuesday, their first day back from Christmas break, out of an effort to ensure that accurate information was being distributed, Hornbuckle said.
When Hammett passed away on Tuesday evening, the same effort was made to ensure the accuracy of the information being distributed. Hornbuckle delivered prepared statements at 9 a.m. Wednesday to students, which notified them of their classmate's death.
Counselors were dispatched to classrooms for the remainder of the day to be available to distraught friends and classmates to speak to them about healthy and appropriate ways to handle death, how it can affect one's emotions and what kinds of emotions are acceptable in such cases, Hornbuckle said. He also mentioned its effect on many of his staff members, who are still trying to process it mentally while continuing to remain uplifting influences for their students.
"We want to make sure the community knows that we are still going to follow up with our kids here in the building and there will be ongoing support and counseling," Hornbuckle said. "This is not something that ends today. This will be something that his classmates will carry with them from now on, and so to the families out there, we want to work with families who have kiddos who might be struggling with this.
"To Tyner's family, our hearts break for you. He was a child who would light up any room. It's hard to deal with any type of death, but especially a 10 or 11 year old. So yeah, our heart breaks for them and it's going to take awhile to heal, so if we can support them in anyway, we want to know how and certainly want to do that."
The city remains cognizant of the issue and city staff has been directed to begin researching options for preventive measures that could be installed to avoid such an incident from repeating itself at some time in the future, City Administrator Phillip Patterson said. He expressed thoughts and prayers to Hammett's family and said that on behalf of the city, the news left them with heavy hearts.
Another individual quick to comment on the incident was State Rep. Robin Lundstrum, who said she has been closely following the story.
"Just like everyone in Northwest Arkansas when we heard about this tragedy, my heart stopped," Lundstrum said. "My deepest sympathies to the families, teachers, and students of Siloam Springs Intermediate School, please know that you all are being held up in prayer, that you are all loved and very special to so many in Siloam Springs and beyond. The death of Tyner reminds us that life is very precious, no matter how short or long, each of us has an important role to play on this Earth for whatever time we are given. Make it count."
For those wanting to offer their support, a GoFundMe page started by Stephanie Martinez, who the page describes as an employee of the Siloam Springs School District, is currently online and accepting donations to assist the family with funeral and hospital expenses. On Friday, the goal of $2,000 has been exceeded, at $2,050.General News on 01/13/2019
Print Headline: Community mourns local boy's death