RICHMOND, Va. – “Why? Why were you driving that fast on the rural roads? Took my niece’s life - for what?”
These are the questions Eric Parham wants to ask the man who crashed into his family’s car head-on, killing his 5-year-old niece and critically injuring his 8-year-old nephew as well as another niece.
The fiery accident was a consequence of a high-speed police chase led by 29-year-old Toriando Smith, who drove off after a traffic stop in Dinwiddie County before plowing head on to the family at speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour.
“A little angel, a little princess, she was my niece loved her to death,” Parham says, describing 5-year-old Christina Parham who succumbed to her injuries after the crash. The driver, his other niece Latonya Chandler and her son Darnelle Bullock were seriously injured and remain in the hospital where they have both undergone a series of surgeries.
“My niece 5 years, gone. My nephew Darnelle, surgery after surgery, my niece Latonya, surgery after surgery... senseless, just senseless.”
Family members are asking why police continued the chase on the back roads of Dinwiddie.
“If the police was chasing him we want to know why,” Parham pled.
While his questions remain unanswered, Parham asks for prayers for his family.
“Just trying to hold the family together, and just everyone pray for my family.”
Corinne Geller with Virginia State Police said the incident started at 8:09 a.m. when a trooper spotted 29-year-old Toriando B. Smith of Petersburg in a Chevrolet Cruze speeding on Route 618 in Dinwiddie County.
"The trooper initiated his emergency lights and siren and initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle. The Chevrolet Cruze pulled over and stopped on the side of the road. But as the trooper approached it on foot, the Cruze pulled away and sped off," Geller said.
The trooper gave chase and the pursuit continued along Route 40 into Sussex County.
"The trooper lost sight of the Cruze, which was traveling in excess of 100 mph. As the trooper searched the area for the suspect vehicle, at approximately 8:15 a.m. he came upon a traffic crash on Route 681/Concord Sappony Road," Geller said.
That is where officials said the suspect hit a Chevrolet Impala, driven by Latonya Chandler, head-on.
The trooper pulled Smith, who was the only person inside the car, from his burning vehicle, officials said.
Smith suffered serious, but non-life threatening, injuries and is being treated at VCU Medical Center in Richmond.
He has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, eluding police and driving on a revoked license.