The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 10, 2013

Parents to recount tragedy of girl’s loss

Kathy Mellott
kmellott@tribdem.com

EBENSBURG — Today Eric and Dana Danchanko of the Ebensburg area will relive one of the most painful experiences any parent could go through: They will tell the nation about the day their 2-year-old daughter, Autumn Lynn, was killed in the driveway of their home.

The Danchankos will be in Washington to urge the Obama administration to issue immediately the final rear visibility rule spelled out in a bipartisan bill signed into law more than five years ago.

“I’ll be asked to speak to our family’s story, but the main thing is that there is nothing that can replace her. She was taken from us,” said Eric Danchanko. “A camera or a rear sensor would have detected Autumn.”

Autumn, a petite, fair-haired toddler was taking part in a family Halloween celebration when she was killed Oct. 29, 2011, in the driveway of her home in the Winterset Road area of Cambria Township.

There had been an early snow that year and a number of people gathered at the home were outside inflating inner tubes for sled riding when Autumn ran into the driveway at the time her uncle was backing his pickup.

Autumn was struck by the pickup around 5 p.m. and she was pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center at 7:13 p.m.

But Autumn is not alone.

“Fifty kids on average are hit per week in back-over crashes, two of whom die,” Eric Danchanko said.

“They actually did a re-enactment of the incident (at our home) and could see everything in the camera before it even came close to the bumper.”

The legislation, termed the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in February 2008 and was enacted with strong bipartisan support from the House and Senate, said Jody Couser, representing the nonprofit Kids and Cars.

Safety and consumer groups, parents of children killed in back-over crashes and the auto industry threw their support behind it as well, Couser said.

Congress directed the administration to issue a final rule implementing the legislation by Feb. 28, 2011. But due to four delays, the regulation has yet to be issued.

Danchanko said the delays are due to considerations of the added cost.

The regulation, when issued, will apply only to new vehicles.

Accompanying the Danchankos to the nation’s capital are their children, Daric, 8, and 4-month-old Liam.

They will be joined by five other families who lost children through back-over incidents. They will be speaking at a press conference set for 1 p.m. at the House Triangle, located on the grassy triangle on the House side of the Capitol’s east front.

Also on hand will be safety industry experts along with U.S. Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y. and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

“We never thought something like this could happen. We always have a real good sense of where our kids are, but you don’t know,” Danchanko said. “The danger is real, it happens, and it can be prevented.”

Danchanko finds it incredible that with the strong emphasis on safety driving the American auto industry that rearview cameras would place so low on the priorities of some.

“Air bags, rollover protection in SUVs – those are standard features,” he said.

“They are costly, but they save lives. Why is this equipment any different?”

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