Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mom: 'It was a nightmare'

Mom: 'It was a nightmare'

06:45 PM CDT on Tuesday, October 9, 2007

For the first time, a Hutto mother spoke Tuesday about the tragic loss of her 12-year-old daughter in 2005 - and why she's fighting for change.

Hutto Middle School student Melissa Swain was killed two years ago this month after falling from a parade float in the city's annual festival.

Melissa Swain grew up in Austin, and her family moved to Hutto, in Williamson County, in 2003.

“She loved to write, volleyball, cheerleading, dance, singing,” said Carla Swain, Melissa’s mother.

It was during the city's annual fall festival in 2005 that Melissa Swain died.

Melissa was riding on a homemade trailer with more than two-dozen other kids.

“Once the parade ended, a lot of the students got off - then they went off to the middle school. She was sitting on the bails of hay with her legs hanging over the railing of the trailer,” said Swain.

Carla Swain said the students were removing decorations from the float - while it was still moving.

“A rope fell and Melissa reached to pick it up and she fell and grabbed a hold of the railing.

At that point and could not pull herself back up and then she was finally pulled under and run over.”

Melissa was crushed by the back wheels of the trailer.

She died instantly.

The Swain family sued the City of Hutto, the school district, the Chamber of Commerce, the driver of the pick-up truck and the school organization sponsoring her float.

The family settled with all parties.

“I needed to find out exactly what happened, and going through the depositions and finding the things that just aren't told up front. I had to know, I needed to know,” said Swain.

"This was not a situation where someone did something intentionally, it was more people acting with a lack of information or a lack of awareness," said Brian Smith, Swain’s attorney.

The settlement included monetary and non-monetary components which include implementing change.

"I'm hoping to work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and city of Hutto to establish some rules and guidelines. There were not any rules at that time from the city or the school district. The chamber had very few rules," said Swain.

The Swain family believes there should be adult supervisors on all floats.. And hand rails.

Carla Swain is still recovering from this tragedy - and another one.

The day after Melissa's funeral, Melissa's dad was in a debilitating motorcycle accident and is still in a wheelchair.

"It was was a nightmare," said Swain.

Despite her heartache, Carla Swain focuses on her family's final moments with Melissa, and she prays her daughter's story brings change.