THE KDK REPORT: A split second, part one

THERE are days when life is so full of splendor and majesty that you can’t stop smiling. Consequently, like two halves of a coin, the inverse can also be true because light and dark co-exist on an ever-present basis. And, on the days when life feels dark and devoid of joy, time virtually stops. In the worst of circumstances, the grief is all-consuming. In the space where on a good day there would be happiness, there is only emptiness and it feels like it will last forever. Perhaps that’s where the phrase, “Time flies when you’re having fun” emanates since it conversely stands still when you are in that dark space.

But the notion that we will have dark days is not what frightens us the most, it’s the fact that life can change in a split second and we can oscillate from good to bad without any warning.

No one understands this better than Dawn, her husband, Ray, and their nine children. Their life changed in an instant three years ago on December 17, 2021 as they were preparing for the Christmas holidays. Their story is so compelling that it was previously featured on an episode of Dr Phil, where I first saw it, and multiple news outlets in the US. Today marks the first time that this family has shared their incredible story with an international news publication.

Dawn and Ray were born and raised in a small town called Jeanerette in South Louisiana, US. They’ve known each other since childhood and began dating after high school. They were married on November 14, 1987, and they never planned on having such a large family, but after their first son, Ren, was born, Dawn says that she experienced a love like she never imagined. She’d lost her mom at the age of seven so motherhood filled her with immense joy. Eventually, she and Ray went on to have (in chronological order) Katie, Shea, Rhett, Carly, Kyle, Lindy, Christopher and Kamryn. Dawn says that from the day that each of her children was born, she remained so tethered to their life force that their souls became inseparable.

Dawn worked six days a week for the United States Postal Service and Ray worked for a local utility company. They lived next door to Ray’s family which was a tremendous help with raising their kids, particularly during their pre-school years. Their home, as one can imagine, was always bustling with activity swaying endlessly between church, school, family and other community commitments. Her busy work schedule aside, Dawn rarely missed an event and at the end of each day, no matter how tired she was, having one or three or five of her children sitting on the couch with her laughing and sharing stories about their day made every sacrifice worth it.

Admittedly, her relationship with Lindy (age 20), Christopher (age 17) and Kamryn (age 15) was different from her other kids because these were her three youngest and, at age 57, she was able to give them more attention and pour her heart and soul into them in a way that was impossible to do with her older children. So, when Christopher had a basketball game in Monroe, Louisiana, which is four hours from where they lived, Dawn dropped everything to make sure she could be there. Ray couldn’t attend because of work obligations and Katie also wanted to go but stayed behind to attend a Christmas party with her husband and in-laws.

It was the last day of school before Christmas break and on the day of Christopher’s basketball game, the weather was perfect. So, when his team won, it felt like a perfect day. They were undefeated and the entire stadium erupted in a loud applause. Many who attended can still recall the raucous celebration and excitement that reverberated throughout the room. It was moments like this that made Dawn especially glad that she made every effort to spend time with her kids, attend their games and be there for them whether they won or lost.

Ever the sportsman, Christopher was a bit disappointed that he didn’t perform as well as he wanted and when they stopped to get some food from Subway on their way home, he didn’t get anything. His favourite fast-food restaurant was Wendy’s and Dawn had offered to stop to get him something from there, but he said he’d wait until he got home. Because she didn’t know the area well, she didn’t insist and they headed home around 6pm travelling on the I-49 highway. Being just before Christmas, it was already dark when they got on the highway.

Lindy was driving since Dawn didn’t see well at night, but she sat in the front passenger seat to assist with directions. In the back of the car were Christopher, Kamryn and Christopher’s girlfriend Marissa. In a decision that would alter many lives, a drunk driver by the name of John Christopher Lundy (age 54) entered the highway driving at 90 miles per hour in the wrong direction. He was in his underwear, intoxicated three times the legal limit, and at 9.01pm he crashed into the car with Dawn and her children, smashing it like a hammer on a piece of pottery. The force of the impact was essentially a mini atomic bomb. The car practically exploded, spinning relentlessly while ricocheting fragments miles away like bullets. By 9.02pm, in that split second, Dawn and her family’s life would never be the same.

Ray received a call from a paramedic 30 minutes later (using Dawn’s phone) saying that his family was involved in a car accident and his wife was critical, but stable. The paramedic said that she was being transported to Lafayette General Hospital and begged him to get there as soon as possible. Ray asked about Marissa and his children but the paramedic said that he only had his wife and didn’t know the condition or whereabouts of any of the other passengers. Ray immediately called Katie and two of his sons to let them know what happened and they all headed to Lafayette Hospital.

Katie drove to the hospital with her husband and before she could park, her father and Shea came running toward the car. They’d just arrived at the hospital and on the way, they’d heard from a news report that there were two victims who died during a car crash on I-49. Two of the drivers, according to the report, had been killed so they knew that one of the fatalities had to be one of their siblings. Katie told them not to over react because they didn’t know if it was the same crash and, in her mind, there was no way any of her siblings could have died since her mom was likely in the front seat and she was still alive.

Katie went to the front desk at the hospital entrance and asked about her mom, Marissa and her three siblings but only her mom and Marissa were at that hospital. Marissa (age 16 at the time of the crash) sustained a femur fracture, dislocated spine, left foot sprain, right hand fracture, neck sprain and severe whiplash. Dawn’s injuries were infinitely more serious. She’d torn both carotid arteries, sustained a spleen laceration, collapsed lung, multiple rib fractures, sternum fracture and had multiple broken limbs (her wrist, left ankle, right ankle and right tibia and fibula were all shattered in pieces). By the time paramedics got to the hospital, she was graded as 35; for context, anyone above 25 is not expected to survive.

Another state trooper phoned Ray while he was frantically trying to get information on the accident and everyone else’s whereabouts. The trooper confirmed that the two drivers were killed instantly. John Lundy was at a rest stop, (alcohol level 0.22), didn’t have a seat belt on and merged onto the lane going in the wrong direction. He went down I-49 driving six miles in the wrong direction before he hit Dawn’s car and was ejected from the front wind shield and his car landed on top of him. Since Dawn was at the hospital with him, Ray knew that the only other person driving their vehicle had to be Lindy and his worst nightmare had become his immediate reality. His baby daughter had been killed and no one had any idea where she and his other children were.

Ray was beside himself. Sensing his anguish, Katie put aside her own pain and sprang into action. She and her best friend of twenty years began calling every hospital in the area trying to find her siblings. They called hospital after hospital and no one matching their description had been brought in. When Katie’s mother-in-law got to Lafayette General, they decided to drive to Opelousas hospital since it was the hospital nearest the crash. Katie wanted her dad and brothers to stay with her mom because Dawn needed Ray and Ray needed the support of Shea and Kyle who were with him at the time. The best thing she could do in this situation was to bring their family back together and end their nightmare. So, while her mom’s life hung in the balance, Katie hugged her family, said a prayer and headed off in the middle of the night to find her siblings.

This is The KDK Report.

• Part 2 of this series will be published next Monday, June 3.


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