The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 27, 2013

Sunbury victim had been prepared for water emergency

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — Melissa Moyer’s parents and sister retraced the final steps she and a friend took before they drowned in a minivan mistakenly driven into the ocean in Maine on Tuesday.

“There are just so many unanswered questions,” said Megan Aikey, 29, hours after returning home from the emotionally wrenching trip. “It’s just so hard to grasp.

Aikey and her parents, David I. and Debra A. Moyer, all of Sunbury, are speaking out about 38-year-old Moyer’s tragic death in the hopes of saving lives and celebrating the single mother of a 13-year-old son.

They describe Moyer as an outdoor enthusiast and avid traveler who enjoyed working with an autistic child as a personal care aide at Shikellamy School District. Though spontaneous, her family said Moyer was also always well prepared.

David Moyer broke out in sobs as he displayed the $30 emergency car hammer his daughter purchased some time ago, showed her son how to use and kept in her car’s center console.

“She was smart enough to have this in her vehicle. She just wasn’t thinking about it when she packed,” he said.

Through his tears, David Moyer urged the public to be aware the small, inexpensive tool capable of breaking glass and cutting seat belts could be a life saver.

“I just don’t want it to happen to someone else,” he said.

The night of the accident, Moyer, who was in Maine with her son visiting Stiner, 37, seven months pregnant and formerly of Catawissa, was a passenger in Stiner’s Dodge Caravan which wasn’t equipped with the emergency tool.

The two friends had gone out for a hike in Roque Bluffs State Park, about five miles from Stiner’s home, at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when they became lost and had to call for help. A nearby resident and member of the local search and rescue team, Wayne Hanscom, took his ATV out and rescued the women and Stiner’s dog, Gunner.

Stiner was driven out of the bluff first by Hanscom who returned to pick up Missy and the dog together, Aikey said.

The women could be heard “chattering, all excited about getting back home” as they got into their vehicle, Aikey said.

It started to rain as they left the parking area sometime around 9 p.m. Aikey said Stiner was likely disoriented by the fog and darkness and took a wrong turn, steering her vehicle onto an unmarked boat ramp at high tide.

“There were no signs, no lights,” Aikey said of the lack of markings at the boat ramp site.

Stiner called 911 to report her van was filling with water, but the line was cut off before any more details were provided.

The vehicle was located an hour later about 175 feet off the boat ramp into the water. The women and the dog were found dead in the back seat, where Aikey believes they went for air.

As she mourns her only sibling, Aikey also struggles with anger for how some are responding to the news of her sister and Stiner’s death.

“People are saying they were just dumb girls. They’re saying they shouldn’t have called 911, that they should have opened the car door, but they didn’t have time. The circumstances didn’t allow for it,” Aikey said.

All the windows - which were powered electronically - were rolled up and the vehicle would have been submerged rather quickly, she said.

The large dog, a Pitbull mix, likely panicked, possibly adding to the confusion inside the vehicle, David Moyer said.

“As much as I don’t like it, I believe wholeheartedly in freak accidents,” Aikey said. “If there’s something Missy could have done, she would have done it.”