The parents of Shante Hopkins expressed only grief and anger Sunday evening in the aftermath of a Saturday traffic accident in which the 24-year-old mother, three of her young children and a 17-year-old family friend were killed.
Police on Sunday, meantime, also confirmed that Hopkins was driving on a revoked license.
Hopkins, who was from Kansas City but had been living in Warrensburg, Mo., was driving her Mazda south on Interstate 435 when about 5 p.m. her car inexplicably came to a stop in the far right-hand lane of traffic just north of Eastwood Trafficway. Soon thereafter the vehicle was slammed from behind and was effectively crushed by an 18-wheel tractor trailer truck.
All five occupants of the car died — two at the scene and three at area hospitals. They were Hopkins; her two daughters, Ja Riah Hutchison, who was to turn 3 in February, and Ja Nijah Hutchison, who was to turn 2 in February; her son, 7-month-old Tay Shawn Hutchison; and her friend, 17-year-old Dominique Johnson of Kansas City.
Police continued to investigate the accident but said in a statement that the driver of the tractor trailer, who was unhurt, had been fully cooperative. He tested negative for drugs and alcohol following the crash. Police reiterated on Sunday that physical evidence from the scene corroborates witness accounts that Hopkins’ car had fully stopped in the lane of traffic.
Investigators on Monday planned to examine the car to see if it possibly ran out of gas or had some other mechanical trouble.
On Sunday evening, Hopkins’ parents, Paulette Kelley and Riccardo Smith, also of Warrensburg, were inconsolable.
“When her car started messing up, she pulled on over to the side. She was in her big, red car,” Smith said, in tears.
“…That was my daughter and my grandbabies. That 7-month-old had just had his first Christmas, and now he’s gone!”
Both parents described their daughter as a good mother.
“She was a lovable woman who always took care of her kids. Her priorities were her four babies,” Smith said.
Hopkins’ fourth child, an 8-year-old son, was with Smith and Kelley in Warrensburg when the accident occurred.
Hopkins was the eldest of Kelley’s six children, Kelley said. Her daughter had just recently moved to Warrensburg and gotten her own apartment. She had traveled to Kansas City with her children to visit the children’s father for Christmas.
They were on their way back to Warrensburg when the accident occurred. Smith said that his daughter and grandchildren will likely be buried in Kansas City, but no funeral plans had yet been made. Smith said he is unsure how the family will be able to afford four funerals.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” Smith said.
Money is being raised for both families on the Internet crowd-funding site gofundme.com. The page for Shante Hopkins can be accessed at http://gofundme.com/shantehopkins. The page for Dominique Johnson is at http://gofundme.com/je8lx0.