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Phanthavong’s Passing: One Year Later

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It was one year ago tonight that a vehicle driven by a former Vikings’ wife hit and killed 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong.

Phanthavong’s car had stalled on a highway exit ramp in Minneapolis, and he was putting gas in his vehicle when Amy Senser’s vehicle struck him.

He died on scene.

Senser was found guilty of 2 felonies and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

Since the accident one year ago, there has been an investigation, a trial and conviction, and a family hoping now to put the past behind.

“It’s been a year,” said Phanthavong’s brother Kono. “But slowly and surely we are healing. The support from people has been great. Even from people we don’t know. It’s awesome, you know.”

Kono and more than two dozen family members walked into True Thai Thursday night, the restaurant where his brother was the head chef. They were greeted by flowers and cards, and condolences from people they don’t even know.

“It’s a lot. It’s him, you know? He brought us together, pretty much,” Kono said.

Chuck Whitney was Phanthavong’s boss, and one of the last people to talk to him the night he died.

“I worked six days a week with him for eight years, practically,” Whitney said.

Phanthavong was on his way to visit Whitney at True Thai when his car ran out of gas.

“We had talked to him earlier in the evening, and he was on his way to the restaurant,” Whitney said. “That’s why he was on that exit.”

Whitney remembers he and his wife getting the call at 3 a.m., letting them know that Phanthavong had died.

He said the fact that Amy Senser was the driver and the case became high profile, was difficult on everyone.

So on Thursday night he chose to remember the good memories and not the bad.

“I think now it’s just about celebrating who he was, and we’ll never forget him here,” Whitney said. “We will have a picture of him up here until the day we close.”

Anousone Phanthavong’s family also gathered Thursday night at the exit ramp where he was killed.

Whitney also said that Phanthavong’s father started bringing him hot peppers when his son was the head chef.

And he continues to grow them and bring them to the restaurant, because he told Whitney that it helps keep his son’s memory alive.

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