Star Valley Child Killed In Tragic Accident

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Friday evening, as Daniel and Debbie Haught were driving near their home in Star Valley, a tragedy occurred that took the life of their 3-year-old granddaughter, Gracie Lee Haught.

"We had just gotten off work and decided that since it's been wet enough, we would burn some brush along with a beetle-kill tree we cut down a few months ago," close family friend Larry Gay said. "Family and friends were there to burn the brush and we were all busy tending the fire."

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Gracie Lee Haught

According to Gay, Daniel and his wife had just finished taking care of their livestock and were pulling around Arena Drive to park their Ford pickup and join the gathering near the fire.

"I estimate that Danny was driving about 2 mph -- which is normal because we all drive carefully with so many children living in the area," Gay said. "Neither Danny or Debbie ever saw Gracie coming. Nobody saw it happen -- nobody was actually looking at the truck. Gracie was out of sight from everybody."

Gracie's uncle, Mike Burket, thinks his niece was excited to see her grandmother coming.

"We've taught all the children not to go running towards vehicles or play around machinery, but Gracie's only 3," Burket said. "We think perhaps she was running for the truck to see her grandma and just tripped."

"That's what we've come to," Gay said. "Our conclusion as a family is that she must have tripped and the truck was still rolling. We heard a noise and I turned around and saw Gracie lying there -- and I screamed."

According to Gay, he and Gracie's father, Samuel "Hooter" Haught, ran to the child and found she was not breathing.

"She was lifeless and had head injuries. Hoot was traumatized -- we all were," Gay said. "Hoot picked her up and ran down the road praying and talking to his baby. Hoot and I tried everything we knew how to do to revive her."

Another family friend had called 911.

Emergency response teams from Diamond-Star Fire Department arrived and continued efforts to resuscitate the child. She was taken to Payson Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.

"Larry came over to my house to let us know that Gracie was gone," Burket said. "Larry and I just sat there and hugged each other for a long time. That's when my 6-year-old son Caleb asked me what was wrong. Gracie was like a sister to Caleb. They played together every day."

According to Gila County Sheriff's Det. George Ratliff, Daniel Haught, 56, accompanied officers to the sheriff's office where he was tested for blood alcohol levels as a procedural requirement, but was released.

"We are still investigating the case," Ratliff said. "But to dispel any rumors that are around, Danny Haught was not brought in in handcuffs and arrested. He was brought in to give his side of what took place -- that is procedure in every case."

Ratliff said the GCSO has not ruled officially on the case and there has been no determination of whether charges will be filed.

"Gracie's father wants everyone to know that this family is grieving together and supporting each other together," Tom Loomis, another family friend, said. "Hoot appreciates all the support he is feeling from the community."

"We all prayed. We've done a lot of that. A lot of people -- friends -- have come out and prayed with us," Gay said. "We know Gracie's with God. We have to trust God and his plans. Every heart she's ever touched is going to miss her."

Funeral services will be held 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 at First Assembly of God Church, 1100 West Lake Drive near Green Valley Park. Internment will be held at Mountain Meadows Memorial Park.

A community potluck lunch will take place at the Tonto Apache Community Center following the graveside service.

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