(Stoddard County, Missouri – September 6, 2016)
What started out as a loosely-planned tribute last Tuesday evening to the four lives became a large community gathering at the school the victims had attended (Richland Public Schools in Stoddard County, near Cape Girardeau, MO). Over 50 former classmates and friends came together to share pleasant memories and mourn the loss of those whose lives were tragically shortened.
Twenty-year-old Hailey Laws and her one-year-old son, Weston Crider, along with Maura Peters, 19, and her infant son Bryson Umfleet, all died in the crossing collision. The single survivor, Vidalia Mace, 19, is currently in serious condition as she is treated at Cape Girardeau’s St. Francis Hospital for her crash-related trauma. The crossing collision occurred at the dangerous and unguarded crossing of Union Pacific Railroad and Stoddard CR 732, which accommodates on average 20 Union Pacific freight trains a day at a maximum speed of 70 mph.
Former classmates of both young mothers, Whitney Teeters and Madison Snyder, organized the event to pray, light memorial candles, and share memories of the victims. “It showed how many people really loved them,” testified Teeters to KFVS, Channel 12 News’ Nick Chabarria of the unexpectedly large turnout. “It’s going to be hard to go on without them,” she added. “I can’t even remember my life when they weren’t a part of it.”
Describing the two women as “best friends and caring mothers”, Snyder recalled that “They could walk in a room and light it up just with their spirits. They were such happy people all the time.”