by: Carl Willis Updated:ATLANTA —
A Decatur family is trying to recover after a freak accident that claimed the life of an 8-year-old boy.
Cameron McIlwain died when a piece of debris from a tractor-trailer's transmission flew into his family's SUV and hit him.
"He loved to play," said the boy's stepfather, Quantain Malone. "He loved to be the big brother for his little sisters. He was a big help. He was like an old man in a little kid's body."
Malone said his 29-year-old wife, Jameka, could hardly remember the details of the crash on Interstate 20 at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
"She had her hand by her face, and it came through the windshield, went through her arm, hit Cameron and went out the back window in the truck," he said.
Malone said his wife had no time to react as the piece of metal, about the size of a football, came hurtling at her SUV with her two kids in the back seat.
"It happened so fast," said Malone.
He stepped out of Grady Hospital in downtown Atlanta to update Channel 2's Carl Willis on his wife's status Thursday, one day after the crash.
According to Malone, his wife is in good spirits despite losing her son and her arm, which had to be amputated below the elbow, about halfway up her wrist.
"I'm just trying to be her support system, just be there for her," he said. "I know she needs me to be strong for the little one that did make it, Kanary."
Kanary Malone, a 19-month-old, was next to Cameron when he was killed. Investigators said she only received minor cuts from flying glass.
"Just praying, making sure Jameka's spirits are up, just making sure she has a support system behind her and we're here for her," Malone said.
He said the tragedy that hit his family without warning doesn't seem real. He said it is difficult to picture life without Cameron, who attended Flat Shoals Elementary School.
"I can't even imagine that right now," he said. "I don't even believe he's gone right now."
The Georgia State Patrol's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team is assisting with the crash investigation, along with the GSP's Motor Carrier Compliance Division.
Charges are pending the outcome of the investigation.