MEEKER I A family lost a son. A community grieved with them.
But, in the midst of sadness, there was good news.
Alahna Martin, 12-year-old daughter of Paul and Vanessa Martin of Meeker, who was critically injured in the two-vehicle accident Jan. 19 that claimed the life of her younger brother, Stone, 9, continues to make progress.
“As of (Monday) morning, Alahna had made great improvements,” said Sondra Garcia, a friend of the Martin family. “She was off the respirator, and all the other tubes were removed, they took the neck brace off, she’s moving all extremities, and she is speaking and responding well. Paul called this morning. I didn’t get to speak to him, but he said that she was doing very well.”
Alahna was moved out of intensive care Monday.
“Today is the day. I just talked to Vanessa and they are in the process of moving her right now,” said Barbie Purkey, a family friend of the Martins. “She’s doing wonderfully. They are very excited and pleased. As far as any timeline, the best she (Vanessa Martin) could say was seven more days and she might be released.”
On a Web site for the Martins, which has more than 3,000 members and has been providing updates about Alahna’s condition, a family member wrote Saturday: “We have rejoicing news. Alahna had a wonderful day. … When we said we loved her, she whispered that she loved us, too. She is in a lot of pain and has pneumonia, but the doctors are keeping a close eye on that.”
Last Thursday, doctors at Children’s Hospital in Denver began slowly bringing Alahna out of a drug-induced coma. She suffered a collapsed lung, a broken sternum, a torn bowel and, doctors discovered later, a broken leg, above the knee. Alahna also had bleeding on the brain, but, according to a message on the Martin Web site Saturday, “Her CT scan looked great. Swelling in brain has gone down.”
Stone, who was airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction the day of the accident, died the following morning. He was a fourth-grader at Meeker Elementary School. Alahna is a sixth-grader at Barone Middle School in Meeker.
“It was certainly a tough week for the schools,” said elementary school principal Jason Hightower. “After we learned of Stone’s passing, we pulled all the counselors in the district, plus two from Colorado West Mental Health, in to help us out. We had two counselors at the middle school and three at the elementary school.”
Hightower issued the following message to parents of grade-schoolers, after receiving word about Stone.
“I am very sorry to have to tell you that Stone Martin, a fourth-grade student at Meeker Elementary, passed away this morning after fighting through the injuries he sustained in a car accident on Tuesday. The Martins have family with them and on the way and are planning services for Stone at some point in the future. We have counselors in the buildings and have told our students about Stone’s death. His sister Alahna, a sixth-grade student, was also injured in the accident and is in serious condition at Children’s Hospital in Denver. It is our understanding that she is recovering and that her mother is with her at the hospital.”
After the accident, Paul Martin and some family members went to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction to be with Stone, while Vanessa Martin and other family members went to Denver to be with Alahna.
As far as a service for Stone, family friend Garcia, who has been in touch with family members, said, “They are planning to have a service, but no plans have been made right now. They’re just waiting for Alahna to do better, nor do they want to be away from her. It is certainly pending, but there are no plans.”
A family member posted a message on the Martin Web site last Thursday saying, “They will have a memorial service in Meeker when Alahna is recovered.”
The accident, which occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Jan. 19, was Vanessa Martin’s 30th birthday.
“They were going to Grand Junction to spend the day for her birthday,” Garcia said. “She (Vanessa) said she slipped … there must have been slick roads. She remembers it vividly.”
Paul Martin was at work when he got a call from his wife about the accident. He is an information system analyst for White River Electric Association.
“It was a very unproductive week at White River Electric,” said Garcia, who is assistant office manager at WREA. “We just did a lot of talking and crying and praying and whatever we could do. We fielded a lot of calls (about the Martins), for sure.”
Besides working at WREA, Paul Martin is pastor of the Church of Christ in Meeker.
“This has brought our church members closer together,” said Garcia, who attends the Meeker Church of Christ, which was formerly pastored by Paul’s father, Jerry. “You can’t imagine the people calling and offering help and asking what they can do to donate or whatever. I don’t know if it’s just Meeker, or all communities do that, but it’s a wonderful thing.”
Garcia said the Meeker Church of Christ is “closely related” to the Craig Church of Christ.
“At one time, he (Paul Martin) preached at both churches,” Garcia said. “So we have some real close relationships with people from that church. They (the Martins) have so many ties to different church families all over the country, it seems like. They are overwhelmed with support.”
A fund has been established for the Martin family at First National Bank of the Rockies in Meeker and Rangely. The Martins formerly lived in Rangely.
On a Facebook page called “Prayers for the Martin Family,” Paul Martin’s father, Jerry, wrote Sunday: “The Martin family would like to say a big “THANK YOU” … We are absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and prayers for our family!!! We cannot answer each post individually, but please know that we love and appreciate each and every one who has taken the time to pray for us and send messages of encouragement and love. We consider all of you blessings from God. We are so thankful to Him and to each of you!”
Last week’s accident involved parties from both ends of the county and sent shock waves throughout the Meeker and Rangely communities. The Martins’ Dodge Caravan skidded and collided with a Chevrolet Impala driven by Carla Slagle of Rangely. Slagle and Vanessa Martin were treated for “moderate” injuries.
“I’m just happy to be alive. I’m grateful for that,” said Slagle, who was on her way to Meeker to have her two dogs groomed. “But I feel really sorry for that family. They are definitely in my thoughts.”
There was also a dog in the Martins’ vehicle. All three dogs were injured in the accident and transported to the Vet Clinic in Meeker for treatment. They were released later in the week.
The accident occurred on Highway 13, near the rural home of Dr. Albert and Mary K. Krueger.
“I was at home at the time of the accident and responded directly to the site, which was a few hundred yards from my house,” Dr. Krueger said. “I am very much saddened by the loss of life and the injuries caused in the tragic accident. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are dealing with these terrible losses. I am very proud of all of our emergency personnel who responded to the accident,” Krueger added. “All law enforcement officers, EMTs and firefighters provided excellent care. This care was continued at Pioneers Medical Center until the patients left with the CareFlight teams to Grand Junction and Denver, respectively.”
Contrary to some reports, Alahna Martin was not thrown from the vehicle. All of the occupants of the vehicles were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
“No, she was not (thrown from the vehicle),” said family friend Barbie Purkey. “Vanessa said she was in the front passenger seat and she ended up in the back. I don’t know how that happened since she was buckled up, but it did. Stone was right behind Alahna. He got the brunt of (the impact).
The accident is being investigated by the Colorado State Patrol.
“We asking for the public’s assistance with the investigation,” said Trooper Rick Kaspar. “Anyone with information concerning the crash, or anyone who witnessed it, we ask they call us.”
Kasper said road conditions on Highway 13 were a factor.
“I can tell you that … the roads were slick in the area,” said Kaspar, who is the investigating officer. “There was some visible snow and ice on the road. You could see the tire marks on the snow and ice at the crash scene. So, yes, road conditions were a contributing factor.”
• The number for the State Patrol is (970) 824-6501 and ask for Trooper Kaspar, or call the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, 878-9620.
MEEKER I A family lost a son. A community grieved with them.