AP Top Stories December 21 AHere’s the latest for Tuesday December 21st: Omicron spreading quickly in US; January 6th Committee wants to speak to Republican Congressman; Democrats not giving up on $2T domestic policy bill; Strong earthquake along Northern California coast.APEditor’s note: The following contains graphic descriptions. An online fundraising campaign so far has raised more than $463,000 for a Louisiana family that lost three siblings in a crash one week before Christmas.The head-on collision killed four people and critically injured two others Friday night in St. Landry Parish, just north of Lafayette, authorities said.The fatalities included three siblings – Lindy, 20, Christopher, 17, and Kamryn Simmons, 15 – and the driver of the other vehicle, 54-year-old John Lundy of Dallas, Georgia, Louisiana State Police said in a news release.Lindy was driving her siblings, their mom and her brother’s girlfriend, Marissa, home Friday night from a basketball game in Monroe, according to their older sister Katie Simmons DeRouen.They were traveling south on Interstate 49 when Lundy was driving north in the southbound lanes and the vehicles struck head-on in the left lane. Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.The two youngest siblings, Kamryn and Christopher, were taken to nearby hospitals where they both later died from their injuries.Two other passengers in the Simmons’ SUV, mother Dawn Simmons and Marissa, were transported to a hospital and were in critical condition over the weekend.Dawn Simmons remains in the ICU. She underwent a four-hour surgery Sunday afternoon to address her right ankle, broken above the joint, and her fibula, broken in four places, her daughter shared on social media. Simmons’ left leg was too swollen to repair at this time, so another surgery is being set, she said.DeRouen said the doctor called her breaks severe and the surgeries major and that Simmons probably won’t walk “like normal” for 10 months to a year, which likely would impact her job as a mail carrier.
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‘I need to feel like I’m helping in some way’
That’s why DeRouen created a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign for her parents. Her father recently retired, she wrote in the campaign’s description, describing them as “extremely independent.”DeRouen, the second of nine children of Ray and Dawn Simmons, said on social media that she created and shared the GoFundMe page because she wanted to help and didn’t know what else to do. She was at a Christmas party Friday night when her dad called and told her, “Mom got in a wreck. It’s not looking good, but she’s stable,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page.”I don’t think money can help, but I need to feel like I’m helping in some way,” she wrote on Facebook. “I feel so helpless sitting at home. My family is shattered beyond words. Please pray for us. I am so worried for both of my parents.”People are responding. In the two days since she created the online donation page, more than 9,500 people had given, some in smaller increments like $20 or $100 and others as much as $10,000. They far surpassed the first goal of $50,000, and a new goal of $500,000 was set late Monday.The massive amount of support shown through the online fundraiser and other efforts has not gone unnoticed.”The support from our family, friends and community has truly been amazing,” DeRouen wrote on Facebook. “It’s amazing to see and does bring a small fragment of comfort for a brief moment. Thank you to everyone who has called, texted, messaged and donated. Some moments are hard. Some moments I know I am completely out of tears to cry.”The unimaginable happened to me last night. My life will forever be changed. I lost my 3 babies. Hit by a drunk driver head on. My 3 youngest siblings. Gone. My mom is still in ICU, and we are praying she makes it. Please pray for my family. pic.twitter.com/HGRmz0kHUW— shea (@scarsanstripes) December 18, 2021
‘There are no words’
Dawn Simmons arrived at a Lafayette hospital “very confused with a bleeding spleen, a punctured lung and two broken ankles” as well as a lacerated carotid artery and broken wrists, DeRouen wrote.DeRouen began trying to locate her siblings she’d known were in the car. None were at this hospital, so the family “called every hospital we could think of to locate them.”What they didn’t know was two hospitals had received them as John and Jane Does, not knowing their names. They were located at nearby hospitals, where DeRouen identified them.”There are no words to describe losing all 3 of the babies of the family. We all have their gifts wrapped under the tree,” she wrote.
‘It is absolutely gut-wrenching’
DeRouen added perhaps the “absolute hardest part of this entire experience,” next to losing her siblings, is yet to come – breaking the news to her mom that “we are no longer 9, but 6.”She said the family is working with one another and with clergy about how to have this conversation.DeRouen said their parents lived for their children.”Everything they did in life was for the benefit of their children,” she wrote. “We went from our ‘big family of 9 kids’ to 6 kids in the blink of an eye. I don’t know how we will ever move on or recover from this.”The accident remains under investigation.Follow Leigh Guidry on Twitter: @LeighGGuidry.