CORVALLIS, Ore. – Family and friends are mourning the loss of two Oregon State University students who died in a car crash over the weekend.
Oregon State Police say 21-year-old Abigail (Abby) Emerson and 24-year-old Christopher (Topher) Kazanski died Sunday morning after Emerson lost control of her vehicle around a curve on Highway 20 near Eddyville. Police say the car went down an embankment and went into the Yaquina River.
“A chaplain and a trooper came to our house,” said Erica Emerson, Abby’s sister. “I thought there must have been a mistake. We’re heartbroken. She was the baby of our family, and we’re all just so shocked.”
Kazanski, who is said to be Emerson’s boyfriend, was the passenger.
“He was my student for a year in second-year French,” said OSU French Instructor Armelle Denis. “He was in my group when we studied abroad last year in Angers for three months.”
Denis says because the group was small, she became close with Kazanski.
“I think he had a genuine interest in people,” she said. “And a really, really good heart. He had so much to live. So many adventures, so many love stories, and the contributions he could have made. None of that will happen and it’s just heartbreaking.”
Denis remembers a moment during the trip in Angers when the two of them played ukuleles on stage with a group.
“He was a great musician,” she said. “He liked to play the ukulele and he liked to sing. It was a wonderful moment.”
On Tuesday, Kazanski had an appointment scheduled to speak with Denis about a project.
“It’s like there’s a hole in the day suddenly that nothing can fill,” Denis said. “It’s strange. It feels so wrong.”
Erica Emerson spent Monday setting up a memorial for her sister on campus – something she says in some way will help fill the large gap she is suddenly missing from her life.
“Something so huge is just going to be missing,” she said.
The memorial is in front of the OSU Beaver Store, where Abby used to work. Directly above the memorial is a large photograph of Abby that is part of the store’s design and was already there prior to the car wreck.
“I was always really proud of this picture of her,” Erica said. “And it just seemed like the place to go to be near her.”
The memorial is a spot where family members, friends, and even strangers can leave flowers or a message.
“It just really touched me this morning when I walked by,” said OSU Student Gabrielle Pendleton who had only heard of Abby’s name. “I just felt like I should let whoever set this up know that I’m praying for their loved ones.”