In New Castle, Delaware, a family is grieving after Latoya Cooper, 36-year-old mother of five, was killed in a crash at the Brandywine Valley SPCA.
After the crash, Juanetta Cooper, Latoya’s mother, told Action News that got a call from the authorities almost immediately.
“She went through the stop sign and must have kept going through. I just was bawling,” said Juanetta Cooper.
The fiery accident occurred near the 800 block of South Street in New Castle around 12:15 Sunday.
According to officials, Latoya lost control of her car and slammed into the animal shelter. In 2015, there were 77.8 million dogs living in households across the United States, many of which were adopted at shelters. Unfortunately, three cats died, but 36 others, in addition to 62 dogs, were rescued and relocated.
“We had people coming out of their houses bringing animals into their cars and homes,” said Linda Torelli of the SPCA. “First responders putting them into ambulances. A lot of people with big hearts stepped up to save them.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a higher volume of travelers combined with more alcohol-impaired drivers cause nearly two times the number of auto accident fatalities during summer months than during the rest of the year combined. However, it seems as though this accident is unrelated to alcohol, although Cooper was found to have been speeding before she crashed.
The fire was successfully put out within just half an hour, and even though the accident significantly damaged the vet clinic within the shelter, SPCA officials say they’re immensely grateful for the support they received from both firefighters and neighbors.
“We’re heartbroken to have lost these lives tonight,” said BVSPCA Chief Executive Officer Adam Lamb. “It could have been even worse if not for the amazing work of the first responders and all the neighbors who worked together to get the animals out safely.”
Despite the fact that witnesses saw Latoya speeding just before the impact, part of the cause could be related to mechanical issues. Brake pads can last anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 miles, depending on driving habits, and not taking proper care of them can make the car unsafe to drive.
The threshold for a windshield is approximately 9,400 psi, and the impact of the crash damaged the building so badly that it is closed until it can pass a building inspection, possibly longer. Luckily, three neighboring branches of the SPCA — the Georgetown, DE, Campus; the PetSmart Everyday Adoption Center in Dover, DE; and the West Chester, PA. Campus — have taken in many of the animals since the accident, and SCPA officials encourage anyone interested in adopting to visit one of the locations.
“You can also help us recover from this tragedy by making a donation to our animals, they have been through a lot during their time on this earth. We need to make this a distant memory and replace it with a loving home and unparalleled support,” the fundraiser organizers wrote.
For now, renovations to the facility are well underway. Latoya’s family, however, is left to care for the five children she left behind.
“I’m gonna need some help burying my daughter. If anyone can help me. I really appreciate it. She got five kids. I’m going to need some help,” said Juanetta Cooper.