claims lives of two Versailles children; parents flown to UC
Wanda English Burnett
Last Thursday, March 24, a horrific crash on US 421 South of Versailles,
claimed the lives of two children, Kacy Nonoka Indiana Brown,
7, and her sister, Grace Nana Brown, 6.
Kristopher C. Brown, 31, of Versailles was stopped southbound
on US 421 waiting to turn left onto County Road 450 South, when
he was struck in the rear by a semi truck. He and his wife, Ai
Odashima Brown, 36, were critically injured in the crash that
claimed the lives of their daughters.
According to information from police, the impact caused the vehicles
to continue south of the intersection and eventually come to rest
in the northbound lane of US 421.
The Brown family was in a 2004 S10 four-door pickup truck where
the children were riding in the back seat. Police say they were
killed instantly. Both parents were airlifted in separate helicopters
to the University Hospital in Cincinnati, OH, with extremely critical
injuries. US 421 was completely shut down from the time of the
crash, which was about 4:30 p.m. until after 7:00 p.m. Multiple
agencies responded to the scene including several state troopers,
Ripley County Sheriffs deputies, Holton and Milan police
departments, Versailles Fire Department, New Marion Fire Department,
Rescue 69, and the Ripley County Coroner's office.
Driving the semi tractor was Steve M. Heightchew, 50, of New Castle,
KY. He did not have a trailer attached and was not injured in
Heightchew was taken for routine drug and alcohol testing from
the crash scene. According to Master Trooper Ben Bastin, who was
the investigating officer at the scene, it appears driver inattention
was likely a factor in the crash. Sgt. Noel Houze of the Indiana
State Police told the Osgood Journal that the tests will not be
completed for up to four weeks, but there was no evidence at the
scene to indicate drugs or alcohol contributed to the crash. It
is also believed that speed was not a factor.
Master Trooper Bastin is expected to turn the case over to the
Ripley County Prosecutor later this week for review for any possible
charges involving the semi driver.
The tragic loss of life has impacted the Versailles community
Both girls were students at South Ripley Elementary School where
Grace was in kindergarten and Kacy in the first grade. Elementary
school principal Mark Collier told the Osgood Journal last
week that the teachers in each respective class had been notified
and were in the process of calling as many parents as possible
of students that were in their classrooms. They also will have
counselors available this week, along with clergy and volunteers
from the Good News Club, where the girls attended, to help with
the grieving process at the school.
Kris Lafary, first grade teacher noted, She (Kacy) was one
of my bright shining stars. School staff agreed the girls
will both be missed by the entire school.
A community reaches out
Churches across the county held special prayers and some took
up love offerings for the Brown family on Sunday.
The church where the family attended, Osgood United Methodist,
has launched a Project Origami Cranes for the Brown
family since Ai is Japanese. They are asking those who want to
participate to make origami cranes. They will need 4,000 of them
- 1,000 for each family member.
According to information from Osgood UMC Pastor Ginny Hizer, origami
is an ancient art in Japan. The crane is a majestic bird which
mates for life and is extremely loyal to its partner. The bird
is strong, graceful and beautiful.
It is noted that because of the great importance of the crane,
the Japanese people feel that a person who folds 1,000 cranes
will be granted his or her greatest wish, such as a long life
or recovery from illness or injury.
According to Pastor Hizer, the cranes are a symbol of motherly
love and a way for the community to show support and concern
for this grieving family. For more information on the crane project
you can go online at http://www.operationmigration.org/Origami.pdf.
Also, the church is planning for a local origamist to visit their
church. Details will be announced as soon as this is finalized
with the community welcome to attend. You can also contact Pastor
Hizer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 812-537-1928 or 513-607-3194.
The family is loved by the congregation at Osgood UMC where many
remember a recent spaghetti supper fundraiser where the children
were particularly involved.
Ripley County Clerk Mary Ann McCoy could barely talk about the
accident, but said the girls were sweet as they could be in their
aprons as they helped at the recent dinner at the church where
she also attends.
Others in the clerks office will forever remember how the
family came in on Thursday of last week, just before the crash,
to apply for passports for the girls to travel to Ais native
land in the summer for her sisters wedding. They just
left here, one employee noted.
The familys extraordinary friendliness was the topic of
conversation as the girls are remembered as fun-loving, bright,
delightful children, who always had a smile.
Hundreds of calls have been pouring in to the Stratton-Karsteter
Funeral Home, where services are pending for the children, and
the South Ripley School asking about funds set up for the family,
or ways in which the community can help.
There is now a fund in place at the United Community Bank (UCB)
in Versailles for the Brown family. You can make donations directly
to the bank there.
Pastor Hizer encourages people to pray first and foremost for
the family, the church, the school community and the truck driver
involved in the accident. Pray for all who are reeling from
this tragedy, she noted.
Editors note: Obituary notices for Kacy and Grace Brown
are expected to be released in this weeks Thursday paper,
The Versailles Republican.
Several emergency crews responded to a
crash on US 421 South of Versailles, last Thursday where
the top photo shows the semi towering over the truck it
hit from the southbound direction and then spun in a circle
to head both vehicles northbound. Below shows the force
of the impact that knocked the pickup truck's rear axles
completely off. Kristopher Brown and his wife, and two children
were waiting to turn when the crash occurred. The Brown's
daughters were killed instantly and Kris and his wife, Ai,
were flown to UC hospital in critical condition.