Police: 7-year-old girl killed while trying to get help after dad's drunken driving crash

ROMULUS, Mich. — A 7-year-old girl died early Sunday when she was hit by a car as she was trying to get help after surviving a drunken driving crash with her father behind the wheel, according to authorities.

The girl, identified by The Associated Press as DeSandra Thomas, sent text messages to police in Romulus after her father crashed around 3:30 a.m. on Interstate 94, near the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A preliminary investigation revealed that DeSandra’s father was drunk when he lost control of the vehicle he was driving, hit an abandoned vehicle parked on the side of the interstate and drove through nearby fencing, according to Michigan State Police.

Police spokesman Lt. Mike Shaw said DeSandra believed that her father had been killed in the accident.


“After the crash, she was able to exit the vehicle, collected her belongings, climbed over the fence that was damaged, by the freeway, and started walking toward I-94,” Shaw said. “She was wandering around and she was looking for help for herself.”

Romulus police were able to trace DeSandra to near the interstate using the text messages she sent, Shaw said. However, they were unable to pinpoint her exact location.

A short while after the accident, authorities got a call from a woman who thought she might have struck either a pedestrian or an animal on the interstate. Investigators determined that the woman, who was not identified, struck DeSandra with a vehicle as the girl was attempting to cross I-94.

“It’s a very sad case,” Shaw said. “Here’s a 7-year-old girl that’s not going to go to prom. She’s not going to graduate high school, have kids, have a career.”

DeSandra's mother, Sandria Burts, described her daughter to WJBK as "a beautiful thing … (who) would give you the shirt off her back."

“She was so helpful,” Burts said. “It’s a void that will never be filled. ... Anybody that she touched she was a blessing to them."

She told WJBK that she was told before her daughter's birth that she couldn't have children. She became a foster mother and adopted two children before becoming pregnant with DeSandra, WJBK reported. Burts shared parental custody with DeSandra's father, her ex-husband, according to WDIV.

"I was angry at first," Anthony Burts, DeSandra's step-father, told WDIV. "She told me this morning, 'That's not what our daughter would want. She wouldn't want us to be angry.'"

Charges are pending against DeSandra's father, WJBK reported Monday. However, Sandria Burts told WDIV that she hoped he would not be charged.

“He has to live the rest of his life knowing that his daughter is not here anymore,” she told the news station. “I hope they don’t charge him. That’s torture enough. Nobody should have to live with the fact that their baby is gone.”

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