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Memorial honors lives lost in deadly crash

The memorial is at the corner of West 11th Avenue and Bertelsen Road, where the crash happened on Jan. 21, 2009.

Posted: Aug 27, 2020 12:08 AM
Updated: Aug 27, 2020 11:02 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- More than a decade after a deadly car crash that shattered three families and rocked the Eugene community, a memorial was dedicated Wednesday in their honor.

The memorial is at the corner of West 11th Avenue and Bertelsen Road, where the crash happened on Jan. 21, 2009. That night, a drunk driver was speeding down Bertelsen Road when he hit an SUV carrying Heather Mulgrave, her son Jakobi Mulgrave, Connie Vermilyea, her son Jaziah Vermilyea, and Nima Gibba. Jakobi Mulgrave was the only survivor. He was at the dedication ceremony and said the years after the crash have been hard, but he is looking to the future.

"I feel like I carry a lot of weight on my back in regards with what I do with my life," Mulgrave said. "That's why I live in Los Angeles. I'm trying to build a better future not only for myself but for my family down the road."

Eliman Gibba and Alexandra Sianis, Nima Gibba's parents, helped create the memorial. It was dedicated on what would have been Nima's 23rd birthday. Sianis said it took a while to get it constructed, but she and her husband are happy it's finally complete.

"We're very proud to have it done and at least have the corner honor our loved ones in a beautiful way," Sianis said.

The memorial is designed with a rock pathway leading to an infinity circle. The circle represents the eternal love they have for those who were lost, Sianis said. Behind the circle there is a plaque with the names of the four who died. The silhouettes of four ballerinas symbolize their love for the arts and the dance practice they were coming home from the night they were killed, Sianis said.

"Even though it happened what seems like a long time ago, it's also very fresh," Sianis said. "That's the one thing about working on this project. It did stir up some emotion."

Gibba said he is grateful the community has supported his family and the other two families throughout the years.

"I feel like I am in a real community now, that we are not isolated because of our pain. We actually are accepted and have been supported and loved to make this happen. It's everything."

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