Tell us a little bit about Austin. We are trying to get to know him.
“To get to know Austin would be explaining for days,” said Nancy. “My only child, coming into this world kicking and screaming, in a hurry. Went through life in a hurry. Loving, laughing, mischievous. Always had to be the jokester, always. Floated in and out of every crowd, very protective of everybody that he loved, all-American, typical boy.”
So the day of the wreck, let’s talk a little about the events leading up.
“School got out at 12:30 that day,” said Nancy. “You know, last day of school, summer break. Had a job lined up. He come out to the house and he was with three other boy – one of them was the driver. I walked back outside with him and I was like, you know, ‘you boys behave. Have a good night and have fun.’ One of the last things that was said to me from Austin was, ‘Mom, I love you.’ And the other boys, I didn’t know really well – Ethan, the last words out of his mouth was ‘Nothing’s going to happen to your boy on my watch.'”
What do you remember about the wreck?
“We passed on a no passing zone when we passed our friends,” said Alyssa, one of the girls who was also in the car crash. “And when we passed, he like overcorrected twice and that’s when we started to roll.”
“Right about where we are here now is where the vehicle came to rest after coming around the curve at a high rate of speed,” said Deputy Jesse Drum. “I would say it was running between 80 and 85 mph roughly.”
“I remember like the sounds of everything, like it was just crazy, and I blacked out going out the window and then whenever I was laying on the ground it felt like it was all quiet at first for a little bit and then like you could hear her like in the background like making noises,” said Alyssa.
“The vehicle was here on its side,” said Jesse. “There were several items scattered across the road. Tools, there was an ice chest laying on the side of the road up there. There were beer cans all over the place, as well as four other individuals needing immediate medical attention. Austin was approximately 65 feet from where the truck came to rest at to where his body came to rest and in this situation it was pretty dramatic injuries and pretty gruesome visual.”
“My job is to find out the cause and manner of death,” said Ripley County Coroner Mike Jackson. “The cause of death was severe head trauma in this case.”
“I got a phone call a little bit before 11 that there had been a wreck they thought somewhere on 160 which is where we live and I couldn’t reach Austin,” said Nancy. “And the minute that I couldn’t reach him it was like something had been ripped out of me.”
“Whenever Miss Elliot arrived, I was here,” said Jesse. “I was actually assisting the EMS crews. I observed her arrive. One of the Missouri Highway Patrol officers – troopers – made contact with Miss Elliott and advised her that her son had died in an accident.”
“I remember being grabbed and just fighting to want to get over there to him,” said Nancy. “They said, ‘ma’am, he’s gone. We have arrested the driver under the suspicion of drinking and driving.'”
“Miss Elliott fell to the ground crying, screaming,” said Jesse. “It was a very, very traumatic deal for her.”
“I don’t remember much after that other than what they told me,” said Nancy. “One of the girls in the wreck says her nightmares were my screams. I wasn’t able to reach Austin’s father until about 4 in the morning. Our son meant the world to us. We adored and cherished and loved him so much. I had to tell him that her baby was gone. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.”
You mentioned as we were walking that there were beer cans all over. Was it pretty evident when you first got here that alcohol probably played a role?
“Yes ma’am,” said Jesse. “Absolutely, several of the teenagers that I came into close contact with when assisting EMS I smelled that off of them as well, so it was a very, very obvious fact that alcohol had placed a key role in this tragic event.”
“I couldn’t tell whenever they picked me up that he was like, intoxicated,” said Austin, another girl who was in the crash.
“Yea, he wasn’t that bad,” said Alyssa. “Yea, it wasn’t that bad at all.”
So then was he drinking between the time you picked her up from the wreck?
“Yeah,” said Alyssa and Austin.
The days immediately following, what do you remember about that time?
“Waiting to know how these children got that alcohol,” said Nancy. “Who gave it to them?”
Has that question been answered since?
“Yes, it’s been answered – two adults, a 22-year-old and a 50-year-old – bought the driver of the truck alcohol,” said Nancy.
What would you say to parents that allow drinking?
“Stop, don’t be their friend.” said Nancy. “Be their parent. Remind them every day. I thought I reminded mine often enough. I guess that I didn’t, it is something that I’ll question myself for the rest of my life. What could I have done? What did I not do enough as a parent for him to get into a vehicle with a friend knowing that he had been drinking?”
“Our lives revolve around them – wondering what they’re going to become, helping them, molding them, teaching them,” said Nancy. “I’ll never get to see him graduate high school, fall in love, get married, have grandchildren. I’ll never get to see any of that so now I have to learn to relive life in a way that I never thought that I would have to. I never want another parent to ever experience what I have. Stop, don’t be their friend. Be their parent, because you could be me.”
In Memory of Austin A. Elliott
May 9, 1997 – May 23, 2014