Denise Hine wrapped up a few routine tasks Tuesday morning and was heading back home to Derby with her blue-eyed baby daughter, Baylee Marie Dion, secured in an infant carrier in the back seat.
Hine dropped off another daughter, 4-year-old Ciera, at preschool in Angola. She stopped at a gas station to fill the family’s Pontiac Grand Am.
Then the uneventful morning turned disastrous. A 24-year-old woman, who authorities allege was drunk, drove a Ford Explorer across the center line while heading the opposite way on Southwestern Boulevard in Brant.
Hine, 31, tried swerving away, but the Explorer slammed into the smaller car, ripping it in two.
Rescuers worked furiously to revive 7-month-old Baylee, who was rushed in her infant car seat to Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving, where she was pronounced dead. Hine suffered multiple fractures and internal injuries and was taken to Erie County Medical Center, where she remains in serious condition.
Danielle N. Kellogg of Brant, who had an earlier DWI arrest in 2009, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and DWI.
She was being held in Erie County Holding Center on $20,000 bail.
Baylee’s grief-stricken family struggled to understand how anyone could be drinking and driving at a time when many people are dropping kids off at school and heading to work.
“I’m sick, sick to my stomach,” said Scott Dion, Baylee’s father and Hine’s fiance. “For anybody to get behind the wheel and drive at 9 o’clock in the morning – seriously, why don’t people wake up and realize how much damage they can do?”
Dion, 30, teared up several times during interviews with reporters Wednesday afternoon at ECMC.
He was accompanied at the hospital by his mother, Linda, and Hine’s sister and brother-in-law, Michelle and Jared Wilson.
“The beauty and innocence [of Baylee] has just been totally taken away from everybody,” said Linda Dion, who normally would have been baby-sitting her granddaughter on a Wednesday.
Instead, she and others were remembering the infant’s amazing blue eyes and pleasant, happy nature.
“She was the best baby anybody could ever have,” said Scott Dion. “She was nothing but smiles. She never cried. She was such a good baby.”
Linda Dion was thankful that Baylee’s sister, Ciera, had been dropped off safely at school just moments before the crash.
Erie County sheriff’s officials obtained a court order to get a blood sample from Kellogg to determine her blood-alcohol content.
Kellogg was pulled over three years ago by a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s deputy on Route 60 in the Town of Pomfret, according to records obtained by The Buffalo News.
The deputy allegedly saw Kellogg cross the center line and the fog line, and he stopped her at 4:19 a.m. Nov. 26, 2009.
The deputy smelled alcohol on her breath and noted that her eyes were red and watery. She failed several field-sobriety tests and was taken to the sheriff’s substation, where her blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.12 percent. She was charged with DWI and DWI per se.
According to DMV records, Kellogg pleaded guilty in Town of Pomfret Court to driving while impaired in January 2010 and paid a $500 fine. She had a conditional license until May 17, 2010, when her full driving privileges were restored.
Her license was valid at the time of Tuesday’s crash.
When informed of Kellogg’s prior arrest, Scott Dion responded by saying, “Maybe they should come up with a law: You get the first one, and you go to jail and don’t get your license back.”
“For the girl that did this, she made the biggest mistake in her life by getting behind that wheel,” he said. “She wasted her life away.”
Linda Dion implored people during the holidays not to drive if they’ve been drinking.
“Just call a cab. This is so senseless,” added Jared Wilson. “That was a beautiful baby that was lost.”
In addition to her parents and sister, Baylee is survived by two other siblings, Michelle, 9, and Ryan, 10.
Scott Dion said he hasn’t been able to bring himself to think about making funeral arrangements for his baby daughter.
“I wish I knew the right thing, how to feel, how to react to what has happened,” he said. “I still feel like it’s not real, and I’m going to wake up and hold my daughter in my arms.”