ST. GEORGE — A crash that kills a woman on Christmas Eve may be tragic enough to some.
It is made even more by the fact the woman became a grandmother two months before. And her four older children lost their father 23 days before and are now struggling to figure out how to deal with both the emotional and financial costs.
Elizabeth Apadaca Valdez died after the passenger vehicle she was driving alone hit a tanker-trailer that had broken loose from a semi just after midnight on Dec. 24 inside the Virgin River Gorge. The three-vehicle collision took place on southbound Interstate 15 in the final turn before leaving the gorge, about 5 miles north of Littlefield.
Tricia Pierce, Valdez’s sister-in-law, said the four adult children, ranging from 18 to 24, were together for the holidays and were awoken at 5:30 a.m., on Christmas Eve to be told that they had lost their mother three weeks after they lost their father.
“They’ve suffered more heartache in the last three weeks than what most do in a lifetime,” Pierce said. “The holidays will definitely be scarred for them from here on out, that’s for sure.”
Their father, who Pierce said Valdez had divorced from, died Dec. 2 in California of unknown causes.
“They’re not sure,” she said. “He laid down for a nap and never woke up.”
Pierce said Valdez was still ecstatic from becoming a grandmother two months ago. She had adjusted her hours cleaning offices to a later time to help take care of her grandchild and had just gotten off work before the midnight crash.
“She just spoiled her rotten. She had that little baby wrapped around her finger,” Pierce said, who added her sister-in-law would “light up any room she would walk into.”
“She cared so much about her kids,” Pierce said. “They just meant the world to her. She would do anything for any of them.”
Pierce said after getting off work at 11 p.m., Valdez went home to pick up a few things and then headed on south I-15 into the Virgin River Gorge on the way to visit her boyfriend in Beaver Dam.
She never got through the gorge.
Sgt. Preston Price with the Arizona Department of Transportation told St. George News the crash remains under investigation.
The stretch between the Utah-Arizona border and Littlefield – where ongoing construction on Virgin River Bridge No. 1 has limited lanes – has been the scene of several severe and fatal crashes of late, including one early Thursday that killed a father and his son.
Pierce said Valdez’s children had just taken time off work, lost wages and incurred expenses to go to their father’s funeral in California that included a rental car to accommodate them all. And Pierce said it is not a well-off family. Now, they also have to bury their mother.
A GoFundMe has been set up to try to help the surviving family members.
“All of them are just suffering big time, financially as well as emotionally,” Pierce said. “What we don’t want them to have to worry about right now is the financial burden. We want them to be able to emotionally handle this without having to worry about paying their bills.”
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