After losing limbs in crash, Marion County couple makes strides in preventing distracted driving

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Tina Smith received more than her share of heartache on August 22, 2012 when her granddaughter, Carmen Ellis, died.

“She was 3 years, 3 months and 3 days old,” Tina said. “She was beaten by my daughter’s boyfriend. She was just a beautiful little girl, full of energy.”

Smith continues honoring her granddaughter through the annual Carmen Ellis Memorial Ride which benefits Lutheran Child and Family Services. This year, the ride took place on August 17, but August 3 changed everything for Smith and her husband Lorin.

They were riding their motorcycles along the route of the upcoming ride to scout it out.

“I pulled over onto the shoulder, he pulled up behind me,” Tina remembered. “I turned around and asked him, what’s going on.”

Through headsets on their helmets, Lorin told Tina he thought there was a problem with his bike. Not long after, Tina looked back to check on him.

“As I turn around to ask him that question, I have to yell at him, watch out,” Tina said. “I see a van coming at him.”

Smith said she remembers every vehicle was in the left lane going around them. But, one van was not in the left lane. Hancock County deputies said the driver of the van glanced over at her passenger’s cell phone for a moment, but that was all it took to change everything for the Smiths.

“I saw the van hit him, and I immediately turned around to try to jump off the right side of my bike and she got me,” Tina said.

Then, Tina remembered the woman got out of her van and came over to her.

“She said, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t see you, I just looked at my daughter’s phone for a second,'” Tina said. “Then she started praying over me. In that moment, in my heart, I said I forgive her, because who hasn’t looked at their phone when they’re driving?”

Lorin said he remembers his desperation in trying to get to his wife. “I could still hear her, and I’m trying to get to her, that was my only goal, I wanted to get to her,” Lorin said.

Lorin said he has never felt pain like he did after the crash. “As I rolled over, my leg actually came off and was sitting next to me,” Lorin said.

Tina also remembers excruciating pain. “The pain is just nothing like I’ve ever felt before,” Tina said. “The man said, ‘Do you have kids, well just think of that.’ I said, ‘This is way worse than having a kid!'”

Today, they are working hard to walk again thanks to hours of in-patient therapy at Community Rehabilitation Hospital.

“We’re going to know exactly what the other one is feeling when we have the phantom pain, which I always used to think was silly, it’s really not,” Tina said.

The couple also wants to spread their message to everyone who will listen. “There is nothing that’s so important that you can’t pull over on the side of the road of just not even get behind the wheel,” Lorin said.

The pair said they rely heavily on their faith. “If you have a believe in God, turn to Him,” Tina said. “I do, that helps.”

From the moment the crash happened, Lorin said he knew he wanted to live. “I reached deep down in my faith and I just asked the Lord, don’t take us,” Lorin said.

Hancock County deputies said this crash remains under investigation.

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