HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The deaths of a mother and her young daughter in separate crashes this week have left a DeKalb County community devastated, saddened and in disbelief.
Julia Yates Patterson, 39, and her 8-year-old daughter Elizabeth “Libby” Patterson, both died Tuesday afternoon on Alabama 117 near their home in northeast Alabama.
The mother died around 3 p.m. in a two-car crash. Just miles away on the same highway, her daughter was struck by a vehicle about 30 minutes later.
“This just all seems surreal,” said Sarah Hatfield Blalock, a friend and former classmate of Julia Patterson. “I mean, I keep saying it over and over in my head but it sounds more like the plot of a sad movie than the real-life nightmare her poor family is having to live through.”
Blalock graduated with Patterson from Valley Head School in 1996. The two became best friends in elementary school. Julia was known by her friends as “Julie.”
“Julie had a big smile, a warm heart and a very witty sense of humor,” Blalock said. “When the news started circulating around the small town of Valley Head that Julie died instantly in a car crash there in town, it was difficult to believe.”
When the news broke that a young child was killed in front of the Patterson home, the shock continued, Blalock said.
“I personally refused to believe it, chalked it up to innocent rumors that spread during moments of confusion like this,” she said. “But it was confirmed that it was Libby.”
The mother was killed when her Ford Explorer collided head-on with a Dodge Ram. The driver and a passenger of the Dodge were taken to a local hospital for treatment, though their conditions haven’t been released.
Libby was hit by a 2008 Ford Focus about four miles east of Mentone. The driver was not injured. DeKalb County Coroner Tom Wilson said the young girl was crossing the highway when the accident occurred.
Libby, who just turned 8 last Saturday, was a second-grader at Moon Lake School in Mentone.
“She will be greatly missed,” said Principal Mary Lance. “She was a great student and a very sweet child.”
The principal said the school planned to release balloons in honor and memory of Libby’s life.
Local pastors and counselors are providing grief support for Libby’s classmates and teachers.
“Libby just turned 8 years old this past Saturday,” Blalock said. “That is much too young of a life to be taken. Libby was a beautiful and bright child.”
Blalock said Julie, who also has two older children, was engaged and planning a wedding this fall.
“Shortly after Julie’s death, a lady messaged me about how much Julie meant to her,” Blalock said. The lady stated that her and Julie managed a recovery group for women on Facebook. The lady told me, ‘So many of the ladies in my group loved her so much. She took time to help everyone.’
“I can see this, I can see Julie being a beacon of hope and light for others battling the storms of addiction or any problems they may be going through,” Blalock continued.
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)