‘She had so much life left’; Columbus family shares message to distracted drivers after 3-year-old dies in I-65 crash

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COLUMBUS, Ind. — Three-year-old Norah Owens was just one month shy of her 4th birthday when she was killed in a serious crash along I-65 in Franklin.

“She had so much life left in her,” said Cari Stephens, one of Norah’s relatives. “We’re supposed to be celebrating her fourth birthday and she’s not gonna be here.”

At the time of the crash, Stephens said Norah was riding with her mother, Lindsey, to visit a family member who was recently hospitalized with COVID-19. She said they were headed northbound down I-65 near Franklin when their car began to stall.

“[Lindsey] got it to slow down and she pulled over as far as she could,” said Stephens. “She thought she was out of the road.”

According to Indiana State Police, dispatchers received an emergency call about a vehicle that was disabled partially in the left lane. Police said as troopers were in route to assist, dispatchers began receiving numerous calls about a serious crash at the same location.

“When the state trooper and the gentleman that was working at the shop uncovered [the damaged car] I mean… my heart just broke seeing that… knowing that Norah was in there,” said Stephens. “Where she was strapped in – it was all the way push basically to the front. There’s nothing left of the back of the car.”

When emergency responders arrived, police say they found Norah entrapped in her car seat in the back passenger side of the heavily damaged car. Norah was extricated and transported to an area hospital, but relatives say she died before she arrived.

Indiana State Police say a pickup truck struck the rear end of the stationary car that was partially in the left lane. Norah’s mom and the driver of the pickup truck sustained non-life threatening injuries. 

“She was only three years old and she don’t get to grow up. She don’t get to experience everything that she should because of possibly someone else not paying attention,” said Stephens.

Investigators said no charges have been filed against either driver and the crash remains under investigation.

Under Indiana’s Move Over Laws, drivers who fail to move over or yield to emergency lights could face fines, license suspensions, or jail time. However, Indiana State Police said that only applies to emergency vehicles, like first responders or highway maintenance vehicles. State troopers said moving over for all other vehicles is considered a courtesy.

“People need to be more safe,” said Stephens. “Think about your children, your grandchildren, your spouse – all your loved ones that you could be possibly losing. And then think about the ones that you could be taking away from other people.”

Family members said Norah would have turned four on February 21. However, instead of planning a celebration of life, relatives are finalizing funeral arrangements for services.

“She loved to sing and dance and she wanted to be a princess,” said Stephens. “The whole family wants her to be remembered for how amazing she is. And for other drivers… all it takes is one second. All you have to do is look away to mess with your radio or look at your phone or send a text message and you could take another baby’s life.”

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