A split-second after she noticed an SUV careening toward her and her great-grandson, Marla Langley made the ultimate sacrifice, her children said.
They believe that when a black Ford Explorer veered onto the sidewalk along North Ruby Street, Langley picked up 2-year-old Jamieson from his stroller and tossed him out of harm’s way.
Jamieson landed on the ground and was swept up by a bystander, family members said. He survived with cuts and scrapes, but his great-grandmother could not move quickly enough.
“She was saving him,” said Edlore Langley, the second-youngest of Marla Langley’s four children. “And she was unable to get away.”
The 68-year-old was struck and killed on the sidewalk about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday while walking her great-grandson to day care, as she did several days a week. Her body fell on top of broken glass, beside the crumpled stroller she had been pushing.
Before paramedics arrived, a passer-by rushed to Langley’s side and tried to administer CPR. She was pronounced dead a half-hour later at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Police suspect the driver, Brandon P. Pratt, 34, was under the influence of drugs when he swerved to avoid an STA bus that was making a stop on Ruby near the intersection with Augusta Avenue. The Explorer went across the sidewalk and into a parking lot, slamming into a large pickup that spun 90 degrees and in turn hit two cars parked beside it.
‘She was just beautiful’
The youngest of 11 siblings, Marla Langley was born in Oregon and spent much of her life working as a dog groomer in Spokane. She had 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Deeply invested in her children, Langley spent countless hours volunteering in daughter Ashley Langley’s fifth-grade classroom at Logan Elementary School.
“She won an award for spending more time in my class than my teacher,” said Ashley Langley, Marla Langley’s youngest child, smiling through tears.
The family lived briefly in North Carolina and moved back to Spokane several years ago. Shortly afterward, a fire broke out at their north Spokane home, said Ashley Langley, who lived with her mother. Five people, including Ashley and a friend, were inside.
Marla Langley jumped into action and rushed everyone out of the house, which was badly damaged.
“She tripped while she was running to get us, and they took her to the hospital,” her daughter said. “She cared so, so much about us. She was just beautiful, inside and out. We want everyone to know how special she was.”
Driver said he ‘blacked out’
The front end of the Explorer was smashed, the windshield broken. Pratt told a responding Spokane police officer he couldn’t open the damaged driver’s side door, according to court documents.
Pratt told police he had “blacked out,” court documents say.
Police reported smelling alcohol in the vehicle, but there was no measurable alcohol in Pratt’s system. While patting him down, they found a glass pipe and a packet of the synthetic drug “spice,” which has effects similar to marijuana. They said he was sweaty and his eyes were twitching.
Pratt told police he had smoked marijuana and spice earlier in the morning, and that there may have been methamphetamine in his system, according to court documents. Johnny Dolen, who owns the Explorer and was a passenger in the SUV at the time of the crash, told police Pratt had been smoking something in the car and wouldn’t say what it was, court records say. Pratt denied that claim.
The owner also told police that the vehicle sped up before swerving, according to court documents.
Pratt could not keep his balance while attempting to walk a straight line, court documents say. He had the same problem while trying to balance on one leg. Authorities later took samples of his blood.
Pratt is being held in the Spokane County Jail on a vehicular homicide charge, which can carry a life sentence. His bond is set at $500,000. He has a 21-year criminal history as a juvenile and adult that includes car thefts, drugs, reckless driving, driving under the influence, robbery, assault, reckless endangerment and weapons charges. Ashley Langley said, “If he got 100 years, it wouldn’t be enough.”
Marla Langley’s great-grandson, Jamieson, is back with his mother, Chelsea Langley.
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