Man who witnessed deadly I-24 wreck says it "broke his heart"

Chattanooga Police confirmed a teenager who wasn't wearing a seat belt died in a crash on Interstate 24 Tuesday afternoon. (Image: WTVC)

Chattanooga Police confirmed a teenager who wasn't wearing a seat belt died in a crash on Interstate 24 Tuesday afternoon. It happened near downtown Chattanooga. NewsChannel 9 learned today a group of people stopped after the crash in an attempt to save her life.

Derek Eledge says he saw the last bit of the crash on his drive home from work. His adrenaline took over and he got out of the car to help. He described it as the hardest thing he's ever been through.

"It was hard that, one being a child and two, that the people helping her - that we could not save her," said Derek Eledge.

When they saw the crash, Eledge and a group of other drivers stopped to help the passengers of this Honda. He says there were three boys and a girl.

"That was hard," said Eledge. "And that was hard for the brother. He just kept saying my sister, I can't live without my sister."

Eledge and the others gave the girl CPR, trying desperately to keep her alive. Chattanooga Police say the teen wasn't wearing a seat belt.

"I kept praying her body," said Eledge. "God just bring life, just bring life."

But police say the teenage girl died at the scene. CPD say Domingo Lopez was driving a Honda and was trying to merge onto I-24 from Market Street. He got too close to a Freightliner and spun across the interstate, sliding under a flat bed.

"The driver of the flat bed truck that actually ran on top of the car, he was really upset," said Eledge. "He kept saying there was nothing I could do, there was nothing I could do."

After dealing with the emotional weight of witnessing a crash that killed a young girl, Eledge went home to his own kids, grateful he could hug them extra tight.

"I know that my heavy heart today is nothing compared that family is having to experience with the loss of their child. that's tough," said Eledge. "I don't want to imagine that experience."

CPD says all of the other people in the Honda went to the hospital for minor injuries. They're still investigating but they don't expect any charges.

We checked with Tennessee Highway Patrol about how many crashes have happened near the location of yesterday's wreck. In the last five years, there were six crashes near mile marker 179. One was weather-related. Driver error was the main cause for most of those crashes.

Related | Crash involving four vehicles including big rig closes I-24 Wednesday morning

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