Father Warns of Texting While Driving After Daughter Dies in Crash

By: CJ Cassidy
HAYTI, Mo. - We're getting closer to Christmas and that means big travel days ahead.
One Heartland man hopes his daughter's death this past Thanksgiving helps save someone else's life as they hit the road this holiday season.
The car Stefany Tillman was driving went off the road in Pemiscot County off of Interstate 55. You can still see the skid marks and her father says he drives by the spot every day.
Investigators who worked the crash say the 24-year-old did not have a seatbelt on and so when her vehicle flipped over she was thrown out, and died instantly.
When Stefany died, so did the laughter at the Tillman home.
"Its the last thing I think about before I go to sleep.  I wake up in the middle of the night and think about it.  I think about it all day," said her father Randy Tillman.
Stefany's death is especially hard on him.
He works for the Missouri Highway Patrol and says he's talked about the importance of seat belts ever since Stefany first began driving.
"Bottom line, I really believe if she would have taken the time to check that seatbelt she would be here today."
He also learned his daughter had been texting moments before she lost control of her car.
"We know that because we looked at her phone.  She sent a text at 12:01 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.  She received a text at 12:02.  The Highway Patrol accident report says the accident happened at 12:05," her father said.
Now Tillman says it only takes an instant to lose control when you're driving, so he wants you to get the message that texting and driving don't mix.
Stefany worked on correcting speech disorders in the Hayti School District and dreamt of becoming an elementary school teacher.
Her dad says he hopes you remember his daughter's story the next time you get behind the wheel of a car.
It's a thought that gives him and his family some comfort as they try coping with their tragic loss.
Since her death, Stefany's father says many of her friends and other teens have admitted to him they wear their seatbelts more often.