A seat belt likely would have saved the life of a 15-year-old boy found dead at the scene of a rollover crash about two miles north of Waverly, said Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner.
The boy, Taylon Artman of Eagle, was among six young people traveling Tuesday night in a 2003 red Pontiac Grand Am on a gravel road near 141st Street and Raymond Road north of Waverly.
None of the occupants, ranging in age from 14 to 20, was wearing a seat belt as required by law.
“It's a proven statistic that wearing a seat belt significantly improves survivability, especially in a rollover accident,” Wagner said. “If you can remain in a vehicle that's rolling over, your chances of living are so much greater. We can't emphasize this enough.”
The boy's grandmother, Donna Artman, said she wishes Taylon would have buckled up.
“His death was very unnecessary, and I wish we could turn back the clock,” she said.
Taylon recently started his sophomore year at Lincoln East High School, but he had attended Waverly High as a freshman.
He loved to play sports with his friends at the park and he planned to try out for the basketball team, Donna Artman said. His favorite sports team was the Minnesota Vikings.
“He was a very active, outgoing and friendly 15-year-old,” she said.
The crash happened about 7 p.m. when a 15-year-old driver lost control of the car. The Grand Am rolled at least two times before landing in a ditch on its wheels.
Taylon and a passenger who was sitting on his lap in the backseat were thrown from the vehicle. That passenger, Chevie Engelhart, 14, of Waverly was treated at a Lincoln hospital and released.
Wagner said Carley Benson of Waverly was driving the Grand Am on a learner's permit. He said she was not accompanied by an adult age 21 or older, as required by law.
Carley had been given the car by her grandparents in the past two weeks. Wagner said investigators determined that she failed to adjust her driving while turning from a paved road to a gravel surface.
“This accident just smacks of inexperience,” Wagner said. “She didn't change her driving to match the surface.”
Wagner said the group had been hanging out at Jaycee Park just before the accident.
Carley and Randy Abbott, 20, of Waverly were admitted to Bryan West Medical Center in Lincoln. Two other occupants — Adirea Grossman, 15, of Eagle and Christopher Engelhart, 18, of Waverly — were treated at the hospital and released.
Taylon is survived by his father, Rick Artman; mother, Lori Minchow; and brothers, Shane Artman, 23, of Eagle and Casey McNeil, 28, of Lincoln.
Crisis counselors are available for Waverly High students and staff dealing with the death of Taylon. Waverly Superintendent Bill Heimann said the school was saddened to learn of the death.
“Taylon was a likable young man who had many friends,” Heimann said. “Our thoughts are with Taylon's family and friends.”
Taylon lived with his father and grandmother in Eagle.
Donna Artman said her grandson was always willing to lend a hand around the house. He was eager to get a part-time job, and he worked odd jobs to earn money. Partially filled out job applications were still sitting on the kitchen table Wednesday night.
“He died too young,” she said.