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One year later: girl survives two days trapped in car

By Mike Valerio, Reporter
Published On: Jul 30 2012 03:39:47 PM CDT
Updated On: Nov 12 2012 11:41:12 PM CST
JASPER -

A year after a crash left a nine-year-old hanging upside down next to her dying father, the family continues to recover and a 100 yard stretch of Highway 55 is now protected by a new guardrail.

The Nov. 11, 2011 crash killed Douglas Landon, 39, but his daughter Jordan survived for two days by eating Pop-Tarts and Gatorade.

In an interview Monday, close family friend Jessica Wilburn said Jordan is excelling in school and carrying on without her devoted father.

"I saw Jordan at a birthday party last month, and I can tell you she's doing great," Wilburn said at her Jasper home. "She was happy-go-lucky, looking at my new-born excited, and I know one day she'll be a great mom and grow up to be a great person."

Jordan's mother, Claudette "Cissy" Leohmann, was devastated to lose Douglas, her boyfriend of 20 years. Wilburn said Leohmann is slowly becoming her old self again.

"She's doing good. She's upset that Doug is gone, but she said he's in a better place now and the Lord is looking after her and her kids."

A guardrail installed Sept. 27 now stretches the length of the crash trajectory. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, four cars ran off the road in the same area between 2007 and 2011.

Jordan and her mother have since moved away from the neighborhood near the accident site. Friends say the two are now living closer to family members in Craven County.

Previous Story: Report - sleep deprivation causes horrific crash

JASPER - After eight months of analysis, investigators concluded that a father was in a chronically sleep deprived state, a condition that caused him to lose control of his car with his daughter inside.

Douglas Landon, 39, was driving along Highway 55 with his 9-year-old daughter Nov. 11, 2011. Based on interviews with family and the last people who saw Douglas alive, investigators said in a 180 page report that the man worked a 10-12 hour day and had restless nights of sleep in the days and weeks before the crash.

Landon and his long time girlfriend, Claudette Leohmann, were taking care of a newborn baby, and slept unusual hours. Troopers noted evidence that showed no attempt by Landon to skid or swerve from the ditch, indicating that the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

Surveillance video was also a critical piece of evidence used to reach the final conclusion that sleep deprivation caused the accident. Landon is shown at least twice appearing to doze off at the Jasper Mini Mart. The clerk who last saw Landon reported to troopers that the father, a regular customer, never appeared to be as tired as he was the night of the crash.

Landon was driving between 51-55 miles per hour, and no alcohol or drugs were involved. An original theory that the back right tire could have blown proved to be incorrect.

Previous Story: ME releases Douglas Landon toxicology report

CHAPEL HILL - The Medical Examiner's office released the toxicology report in the death of Douglas Landon, the man who wrecked with his daughter in the car Highway 55 near Turkey Quarter Creek Road last month.

The report, issued by the state's ME office in Chapel Hill, stated that Landon had no alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.

The report about Landon's cause of death has not yet been completed by the state.

Landon crashed his car off the side of the road on Friday Nov. 11. In that wreck, his daughter Jordan Landon, 9, survived for two days before the car was found.

Investigators found that the girl survived with the help of Pop-Tarts and Gatorade, which she and her father had just bought from the Jasper Mini-Mart before the crash.

Previous Story: 9-year-old survives 2 days in car wreck

CRAVEN COUNTY - A 9-year-old North Carolina girl ate Pop-Tarts and drank Gatorade while trapped for two days in a car wreck that killed her father.

Jordan Landon of Cove City, N.C., was airlifted to a hospital Sunday night after crews cut her out of the vehicle that had been trapped upside down in a culvert since Friday night, the North Carolina Highway Patrol told The Associated Press.

Her father, 39-year-old Douglas Landon, was killed in the crash.

A person walking by saw the car off a state highway and called 911 late Sunday afternoon, more than 40 hours after the pair was believed to have crashed on their way to a store, Sgt. David Clifton told the AP.

Temperatures at night had dropped into the 30s in the area in eastern North Carolina.

The little girl is talkative and is expected to fully recover, Clifton said.

In his final moments, a family friend said Douglas Landon was trying to protect his daughter.

"He was curled up in a ball with his arm right across his chest and his other arm pushed out across Jordan. He was trying to hold her and trying to keep her protected, he was a good father," Kevin Brinson said.