Norfolk woman dies after crash involving Navy firetruck

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) -- On Christmas Eve, a mother of four died from injuries she suffered in a crash one week before.

Police say Charlene Rios, 37, crashed with a firetruck from Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads on Dec. 17 as the engine was trying to cross Hampton Boulevard en route to an emergency.

The accident happened across from the firehouse near Baker Street.

Rios' daughter, Samara Donato, was riding in the passenger seat. The 12-year-old needed 23 stitches in her head.

"I remember just looking at my mom trying to swerve and she had a worried look on her face," recalled Donato, who says she and her mom both blacked out after the impact.

Doctors had to amputate Rios' leg and she also suffered breaks to her foot, pelvis and ribs.

"She was on a ventilator," said Richie Donato, her husband of 23 years. "She was heavily sedated. They wanted to keep her comfortable."

Seven days later, and just hours before a scheduled surgery on Christmas Eve, Rios died from complications.

"The doctors informed us that she had bacteria in her blood, she contracted pneumonia somehow and they were suspecting she had a blood clot in her lung," said Mr. Donato.

The family says they are now looking back at old pictures for comfort and looking at Samara -- the life spared in the tragedy.

"If anybody was going to walk away from that accident, she would have preferred it would be my daughter and not her," said Mr. Donato. "It played out just the way my wife would have wanted it to."

While police say the firetruck had its lights and sirens activated, Samara says she never heard sirens before the crash.

"There was no sirens at all; not even firemen to stop the traffic," she said. "There was nothing."

Police say they are still investigating. The results of the investigation will be turned over to the Commonwealth's Attorney who will decide if any charges will be filed.

An online fundraising page has been set up to support the Donato family through this tragedy. 

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