On June 7, Shannon LaPietra received the call every parent dreads. The caller told LaPietra that her son-in-law Micah Christian had been killed in a car crash on Route 7 in Bennington earlier that day.
The authorities had notified Christian’s family of the accident, but been unable to locate LaPietra to let her know of the young man’s death, or that her daughter Sara Christian and 20-month-old granddaughter, Isla, were at the Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center after being thrown from the vehicle during the crash. Micah’s sister made the call.
On Tuesday, LaPietra — clearly shaken and uncertain about how everything will play out — said the good news is Isla was released from the hospital with only a broken clavicle and “freckles,” or blood dots, on her face from the crash.
“My granddaughter was released to me the next day after the accident,” LaPietra said, speaking from the Ronald McDonald House in Albany where she and her three other children are staying. The Christians live in Rutland.
She was not prepared to face the injuries suffered by her daughter in the crash, she said.
“Everybody that I talked to is surprised she is even alive,” she said. Sara Christian was kept in a medically induced coma for nine days. “She’s not OK. One of her arms was nearly torn off her body.”
Christian has had brain surgery, lung surgery, plastic surgery for her face, two broken arms and one badly broken leg. Her spine is crushed, LaPietra said, but the medical team has not dealt with that injury yet. LaPietra tries to be present three times a day to feed her daughter.
“She’s not good. She’s going to be here for a long, long time,” LaPietra said.
As for the car crash, LaPietra said her daughter only has begun to remember events.
“I’ve asked her, but Sara doesn’t remember. She just started remembering today going down the highway. There was a lot of laundry in the car, but that doesn’t explain anything, because they could have done that in Rutland,” LaPietra said. The family dog was also in the car and was killed in the accident.
Police said the two-car crash occurred on Route 7 south of Arlington, just below the split in the highway. Micah Christian’s body had been thrown from their 2005 Honda Pilot into a heavily wooded area near the crash site. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Sara Christian and Isla were also thrown from the vehicle; both were airlifted to Albany Medical Center.
Authorities said the crash was caused when the driver of the Pilot — they have not said who was driving — made an improper lane change at a high rate of speed. The driver of the other vehicle was not injured.
Questions have been raised about whether Isla was properly strapped into a baby car seat. LaPietra said she went to see the car, and verified that the car seat was in the vehicle, but not properly secured. It was tied in place rather than strapped in according to safety protocol.
“Was the car seat properly installed? No. I was a little bit horrified,” LaPietra said. Still, her granddaughter was not seriously injured in the crash, and she’s confident the parents always buckled her into her seat. The emergency responders said “the hand of God caught her,” she said.
LaPietra delayed telling Sara Christian that her husband had been killed in the crash. She had to be sedated when she was informed.
“Sometimes she’s super angry. She doesn’t understand what happened. She’s like, ‘Sometimes I can’t believe I have to raise this baby alone,’” LaPietra said. “Things trigger her. The baby does look exactly like Micah.”
Her mother will need to clean out the couple’s apartment, and plans to move her daughter down to Virginia when she’s able to leave the hospital and rehab, and travel.
Right now, things are a blur for LaPietra. She’s unclear if the couple had insurance; she doesn’t know how long her daughter will be hospitalized; she just bought a business in Virginia that needs her attention, as well; LaPietra’s mother came to help, but ended up in the emergency room for an unknown ailment.
“I have to do this by myself,” LaPietra said.
Micah Christian was cremated on Saturday, according to LaPietra. She has not been able to get to Bennington to pick up the ashes.
A friend set up a GoFundMe account at gofund.me/1fa5d2fe for the family to help cover LaPietra’s expenses — things like travel, adapting her home in Virginia to accommodate her daughter’s physical handicaps, and buying clothes and supplies for Isla. As of Wednesday afternoon, the account had raised $1,350.