Family fatality leaves survivors to carry on memories of loved ones

By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE)- What was supposed to be a Thanksgiving well spent transformed into a nightmare for the Szymankiewicz-Klein family. The Austin family was headed to Nacogdoches Thanksgiving Eve when their vehicle was struck by an eighteen wheeler on highway 103. The two survivors are 29-year-old Deva Szymankiewicz and her mother, 51-year-old Holly Klein. Klein's 14-year-old son Dakota and Szymankiewicz's husband Todd, as well as her 5-year-old son Casimir and 3-year-old daughter Aoibhin passed away.

"With an incident like this, that's such a tragedy, is in some way a constant reminder that we all do need to be aware of what's going on around us," said trooper David Hendry.

They may be recovering from the physical pain, but the emotional wounds cut much deeper.

"I do think things happen for a reason. I still can't see the reason for this yet, but there has to be a reason," said survivor Holly Klein.

The survivors find comfort in remembering their loved ones.

"I still love you know the way that they were, and memories, personalities. It means to me what it's always meant to me and I'm just trying to hang on to that," said survivor Deva Szymankiewicz.

Memorial funds have been set up in both family names.

"I'd like to do something for Dakota, so that, so that his life will be meant something," said Klein.

And for Deva, funding would allow her to grieve without heavy financial burdens.

"Some of the expenses have been tremendous and my family was a very young family. You know we didn't have life insurance," she explained.

It's funding that might allow the survivors' some sense of peace in an already tragic loss.

Both families are very thankful for the support they have received so far, and say any donation, big or small will be greatly appreciated.

If you can help, mail donations to either the Dakota Memorial Fund or the Szymankiewicz Memorial Fund. You can send these donations to the following address:

Austin Federal Credit Union                                                                                                          Attn: Brittney Foster                                                                                                                 1900 Woodward St                                                                                                                     Austin, TX 78741

Also, the family is asking any witnesses who have information on the accident to contact the families' attorney, Stacey Coll at 1-888-477-1319.

The accident itself is still under investigation.

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