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Girl, 5, killed while sledding down Winfield driveway

A 5-year-old girl was killed Monday after she was struck by a vehicle while sledding in Winfield.

The incident occurred at about 10:20 a.m. Monday, according to the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. The girl had been sledding down a driveway and into a neighborhood road where she was struck by a Kia Sorento driven by a 49-year-old woman, police said.

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The child was taken to Carroll Hospital for further care, but her injuries were too severe, according to police, and she was pronounced dead at 11:09 a.m. Monday.

No charges have been filed at this time against the driver, who showed no signs of impairment, according to police, and speed does not appear to have been a factor in the collision.

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The neighborhood had been plowed, but the roads reportedly still had some snow or ice on them after being plowed, said Cpl. Jonathan Light, a Sheriff's Office spokesman.

The Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate, and once the investigation it complete, the findings will be presented to the Carroll County State's Attorney for final determination of whether charges should be brought.

The Sheriff's Office is not releasing additional details, including the identities of the child or the driver.

Light said the Sheriff's Office asks drivers to be especially viligant when driving in areas where kids might be playing.

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Drivers should also be careful about obstructions to their view caused by the piles of snow created from plowing the road, he said.

Sheriff Jim DeWees echoed Light's request that drivers exercise caution and said that while this fatal accident was unavoidable, people should take extra care to prevent others.

"I was down there [Monday], and that was just a totally tragic accident, it really was," DeWees said. "It wasn't anything malicious on anybody's part, it was just unfortunate timing of that little girl going out in the road."

Carroll officials outline sledding safety tips:

Sledding and other snow-based recreation can be fun, but the slick slopes and cold winter environment can present hazards: Each year, more than 19,000 people 19 or younger end up in the emergency room because of sledding accidents in the U.S., according to Lt. Brett Pearce, of the Westminster fire company.

"Typically what we see is bumps, bruises, fractures, and head injuries," Pearce said.

Sometimes, as in the tragic case of a 5-year-old Winfield girl on Monday, those accidents can be fatal.

"In the overwhelming majority of the incidents, it's not life threatening," Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said. "In some circumstances, it can be tragic and it happens in an absolutely split second."

Although some accidents can never be foreseen, DeWees and Pearce recommend taking precautions to reduce the risk of injury while playing in the snow. Pearce offered five rules of thumb he said can help sledders avoid trouble:

1. Wear a helmet.

2. Never sled near a road or on a hill that goes down to a roadway.

3. Always stay with a group and make sure to have a cellphone to call for help when needed.

4. Face forward and sit down when sledding.

5. Take a look around and avoid trees, rocks, fences and other hard objects that might be in the path.

A lot of sledding safety boils down to being aware and smart about your surroundings, according to DeWees. He said some of the more-serious incidents occur when people pick up too much speed on a steep slope and bail out too late, striking obstructions such as trees. Or they ride a sled out onto ice, such as on a pond. Not only should adults and teens be aware of such hazards, DeWees said, but they need to be supervising younger children as they sled, especially if such hazards are present.

"Small children have no fear, they will go on top of a pond and walk, or they will walk right out in the middle of the road," DeWees said. "You absolutely have to have supervision."

Keeping to slopes with good access for emergency responders, should they be needed, and keep a phone ready to call them is also important, according to Pearce.

"Generally, people find the best places to sled in locations that aren't always quickly accessible to paramedics and firefighters when they have to respond," Pearce said. "Responding to a sledding accident is a labor-intensive call that requires multiple people to access the patient, package the patient for transport and then ultimately remove the patient from where they are. In deep snows, this proves difficult and results in delay of care to serious injuries."

Lastly, DeWees said, there's a non-sledding related danger when it comes to heavy snow that parents need to be mindful of.

"There is a lot of snow out there: do not allow your kids to tunnel in the snow and treat it like a fort," DeWees said. "It's going to collapse, and when it does they will suffocate. A lot of kids die that way. It is tragedy waiting to happen."

Jon Kelvey contributed to this article.

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twitter.com/hmongilio

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