Waverly, NE - The crash that killed 15-year-old Taylon Artman on August 27 should have never happened. According to the Lancaster county Sheriff's department, the 15-year-old driver was behind the wheel illegally. The driver had a learner's permit but did not have a 21-year-old in the car. In Nebraska, a driver with a learner's permit must have a licensed driver in the closest seat to the driver. Captain Ben Houchin told Action 3 News, "No part of what they were doing was legal."
The driver was the only one wearing a seat belt. There were six people in the 2003 Pontiac Grand Am, and it only had enough seat belts for five people. Houchin said a passenger in the back seat of the car was sitting on Artman's lap. The driver has not been charged because the investigation continues, for that reason we are not releasing her name.
One day after her grandson died, Donna Artman is surrounded by grieving family. Taylon lived with his father in her home. She described her grandson as an athletic, popular boy. "He was a very outgoing, energetic, sometimes mischievous boy," said Donna. The night of the accident, her family had to wait a grueling two hours before confirmation of Taylon's death. Her family shared few words after learning he was gone, simple yet heartbreaking, "he's not coming home," said Donna, "he always came home." She hopes his death is a lesson for every young driver, "buckle up and be a little more responsible and be of age."
Nicci Woltemath hopes her daughter, Emily, learns the same lesson. Emily was supposed to be in that car, joy riding. Nicci didn't feel comfortable with a teen driving her daughter around and forced her to stay home. "I was mean and she thought I was being mean, and I'm glad I was being mean and I'm going to be meaner from now on.'' Nicci said around 10 o'clock, the night of the accident, a group of teens knocked on her door in a panic, searching for Emily. She was safe at home, her mother, more than happy she didn't allow her to go out. "This is what happens when seat belts aren't worn, kids get in a car and think they're invincible...they're not." Nicci said the teen driver is new to Waverly and is improving in the hospital. "This is something she's going to have to live with forever."
A town in shambles, a young teen dead, another teen's life, changed forever. Everyone who knew Taylon is grieving. Aleesha Nelson visits the site of the crash a day later. She is a new student at Lincoln East high school, where Taylon just started his sophomore year and said their friendship just "clicked". "He was the kind of person that if anyone was sad, he could make anybody happy." Aleesha remembers the last conversation she had with Taylon, and said she never imagined it would be the last. "It's just so weird to think one minute he's there and the next minute he's gone," she said as she fights back tears, "can't really do anything about it, God took him for a reason."
While the family makes funeral arrangements, the small town prepares for a candle vigil. Even the Casey's general store in Waverly is helping out however they can. Right now, it's accepting donations for the Artman family. Taylon's family said it's a testament to the kind of kid he once was, "He was very outgoing and well liked."