Seventh grader dies in crash

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Lewisburg Middle School student was buried Tuesday following a one-car crash along Fayetteville Highway near the state garage Friday when her grandfather was driving her and siblings to school.

Briana Nicole Diestelow, 12 of Conrad Road, Belfast, was ejected from the Chrysler 300 driven by Joseph William Booth, 55, who's been living in Belfast and was driving with a license bearing a Baltimore, Md., address, according to authorities.

The 7th grader's funeral was at LifeSong Family Church with burial in Lone Oak Cemetery.

Briana's brothers and sister, Blake Diestelow, 9, Michael Dylan Giddens, 4, and Summer Nicole Giddens, 12, all of Belfast, were also passengers in the car during the crash at about 7:25 a.m., Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper David Hill said.

Robert Walker of Hickman County heard the crash shortly after arriving at work in the state highway garage that's being remodeled for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"I heard the kids hollering and crying," Walker said later while laying cinder blocks for a wall in the garage. Summer Giddens "was hollering for her grandfather to come out" of the car.

"There was gas from the airbag," he said. "They must have thought it was smoke. That one little girl was hysterical for her grandfather to get out of the car."

Walker asked Booth if he wanted help, but "he just wanted to sit there," the tradesman said.

"It looked like they were going to school," Walker said. Briana's "books were right beside her...It looked like the little girl ... went out the back window."

The trooper confirmed Walker's observation.

The Chrysler was northbound, Hill said across a fence while investigating the crash with Mike McAlister of Columbia, a Safety Department crash reconstructionalist.

"The gentleman driving was taking kids to school," the trooper said. "He went off the right side of the road."

The right front tire dropped off the edge of the roadway, and the car traveled down an embankment, Hill reported.

The Chrysler then rolled "through a fence-row and a small tree-line, hit a creek bed, overturned and came to final rest off in the field here," Hill said.

Hill and McAlister estimated the car traveled 550 to 600 feet after it left the highway. Hill said that at that point in the investigation he was "pretty sure that speed was a factor" in the crash. He also felt that the 2006 Chrysler 300 was damaged beyond repair.

Three Marshall County Emergency Medical Service ambulances responded to the crash, Hill said.

London Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

Briana was a native of West Boca Raton, Fla. and daughter of Becky (Kerry Giddens) Diestelow of Belfast and Paul (Andrea) Diestelow of Liberty, Tenn.

A complete obituary appears on page 2A of today's Tribune.