Helena mother dies; 2 kids improving

By WLOX Staff

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The woman whose Jeep plunged into a ditch off Highway 614 Tuesday afternoon has died. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd identified the victim as Tosha Caudillo, 21, of Helena.

Sheriff Byrd said the conditions of Caudillo's two young children are improving. Both are now at USA Children's Hospital in Mobile.

Trinity Hotoph, 3, is in serious, but stable condition. The toddler, Jaden Hotoph, whose exact age is unknown, has improved enough to be taken off life support, but is still in critical condition.

The grandmother, Tammy Hotoph, made it out of the accident in good condition.

The mother and two children were pulled out of the vehicle and out of the water by a passing motorist. Only the grandmother was able to get out herself.

Officials say the scene could have been much worse had some good Samaritans not stopped to help.

Skylar Yates and Chad Gregory were two of the first ones on the scene, and two of the first to take action.

"Whenever I pulled up, the car was already in the water," said Yates.  "And the grandmother was screaming, 'There's three babies in the car!' And just, I immediately dove in the water."

Yates and Gregory, along with several others, went underwater to unbuckle car seats and seatbelts, and pulled all three of the trapped victims out of the water.  They handed the babies to another bystander, Deedy Cain, who happened to be an emergency room nurse at Singing River Hospital. She had also taken a class in pediatric CPR.

"I started CPR on the baby and I have no idea how long," Cain said.  "It's scary being out there, and you know what you need and it's not there.  And you're just praying that the helicopter, or Acadian ambulance gets there.  That was the happiest sound of my life when I heard Acadian's sirens."

Officials say by the time most rescue workers arrived, the three victims were already out of the water.

"We're very thankful for everyone that has helped," Sheriff Byrd said. "Those folks that were here when it happened, those folks may not be here right now."

Sheriff Byrd said after the Jeep was pulled from the water, the family's dog was found dead inside.

Investigators reconstructed the accident scene Tuesday night, and have determined that speed was a factor in the crash. The speed limit in that area is 40 mph, but they believe the vehicle was traveling at least 65 mph.

Sheriff Byrd said the woman's license listed an address in the Helena community, but the tag was from George County. Toxicology tests are being conducted on Caudillo's body to determine if drugs or alcohol could have played a role in the accident. That's standard procedure in all fatal accidents.

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