By Heather Hintze
EUGENE, Ore. — Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of one of the worst crashes in Eugene’s history when Matthew Ellmers drove drunk and ran a red light, smashing into Heather Mulgrave’s SUV, killing two adults and two children inside.
Heather Mulgrave, her friend Connie Vermilyea, Connie’s son Jaziah and 11-year old Nima Jibba all died in the crash. Heather’s son Jakobi was the only passenger to survive.
There was a sixth person in the car that night, 14-year-old Megan Haith, who was dropped on just 15 minutes before. Megan says this day is a reminder that four of her friends are no longer here and that she easily could have been in the car with them when it happened.
For most sophomores at Sheldon High School, January 21st is just another day. But for Haith, it’s a terrible reminder of four friends lost to tragedy.
“My jaw just dropped to the floor. I thought, Heather Mulgrave, Heather, my dance Heather? It just seemed unreal,” she said.
Heather Mulgrave had dropped Megan off just 15 minutes before the crash. “It’s extremely hard knowing all it took was for Heather to say, ‘You can come with me.’ And I could have not been here today,” said Megan.
She says that night has burned itself into her memory, “We were listening to music, and everyone was happy and smiling and dancing in the car. We were just talking about how great practice had gone that night. She said, ‘I’ll talk to you later. I’ll call you tomorrow and see how your day is going.’ And when I came to school the next day, knowing she wasn’t going to call. That was hard.”
Megan says as hard as it is, she does everything in her power to focus on the good times she had with Heather, Connie, Jaziah and Nima. “They were always happy and smiled and danced and always wanted the best. They were just angels. Angels on Earth. And now they’re angels in Heaven.”
Families of the victims say they hope the memorial will serve as a reminder to everyone about the consequences of drinking and driving. Megan and her family plan to visit the crash site Thursday evening to honor their friends.