SWEET HOME, Ore. – A 16-year-old Sweet Home High School student died Sunday afternoon after a car crash outside of Brownsville, and her friends are spending the week of Christmas remembering the teen they say was sweet, witty, and respectful.
Oregon State Police say 16-year-old Caroline Huss was driving westbound on Highway 228 on Sunday. Her mother, Angela Huss, was also in the vehicle when police say she drove over the center line and crashed into a tow truck. Officials say Caroline was pronounced dead at the scene. They say Angela Huss and the tow truck driver, Allan Wooster of Eugene, suffered minor injuries.
Sierra Cuevas, a junior at Sweet Home High School, says Caroline was her best friend. Hours after the crash, she received a Facebook message with the news.
“I broke down,” Cuevas said. “I couldn’t breathe. I immediately ran out of my room and fell on the floor. Last night was really hard. I couldn’t sleep. And the nerves in my stomach – I just felt sick.”
Cuevas called her parents who were Christmas shopping at the time.
“I couldn’t understand what she was saying,” Lisa Cuevas said, Sierra’s mother. “She wasn’t making sense. I knew it was bad but I didn’t know what it was. She said Caroline. Something happened to Caroline. And I said: ‘No. Not Caroline.’ And I lost it in the store.”
Cuevas says her heart broke.
“Angela (Huss) is the most loving mom,” she said. “She’s protective. It’s all about her kids. They’re number one in her life. And that’s why when this happened I’m heartbroken for her.”
But Cuevas is hurting for other reasons – not only because her daughter lost her best friend or because she was close with the Huss family, but because she knows what it is like to lose a child.
“In 2009, I lost my 20-year-old son,” she said. “It was a little different. It wasn’t a car crash. It was an overdose. But I went through a lot of turmoil. The emotions are going to be really rough.”
But as one mother to another, Cuevas says she knows the road ahead for the Huss family is not going to be easy.
“One of my worst fears was that people would forget about him,” Cuevas said. “You feel like once they’re gone, people are going to go on with their lives and eventually they’re going to disappear. But it’s just not that way.”
Cuevas suggested that her daughter make a Facebook page to help the family cope. Perhaps not now, but when the family is ready. It’s something Lisa did after she lost her son.
“You learn so much more about your children,” she said. “And it’s good stuff. And you find out how many people truly loved your children. And that’s so important when you’re mourning.”
Sierra made the page Sunday night, and she says so far it has helped her. She says it is a platform where she can share her memories about Caroline.
“You could be feeling horrible and she would bring you up immediately,” she said.
Sierra says she will remember Caroline as the class clown – someone who was caring and respectful – but funny and outgoing.
“We would always sing ‘Do you believe me now’ by Jimmy Wayne,” she said. “It’s a country song. And we’d always just sing it on the top of our lungs. And she had so much fun doing it. The last time I saw her she was mentioning how next time we have to blast that song.”
As for Lisa Cuevas, she says she will always remember the first time she met Caroline. The girls were in eighth grade, and Caroline spent the night at Sierra’s house.
“When she left I remember I went up to her and said: ‘You know, don’t get into a fight with Sierra. I want you to come over more often.’ She was a sweet girl,” Lisa said. “I mean you looked into her eyes and you just saw a good soul. And that’s who Caroline was.”