MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The men’s basketball coach at Southwest Minnesota State University and his wife are talking about finding strength to deal with the loss of their 5-month-old son, who died in a crash when a drunk driver slammed head-on into their car.
“I know he’s in a wonderful place, but I’d do anything to have him back,” said Heather Bigler.
She and her husband, Brad, are grieving for Drake at their home in Marshall, Minn.
The hugs they give their other children Taleigha and Nash are a lot bigger these days. They say the crash has changed their perspectives on life.
“It’s difficult. I mean, you look at your children and there’s always one missing,” Heather said. “Just learning to live with that pain…I don’t think it’ll ever go away.”
Heather was driving that Saturday night along a western Minnesota highway. The family had just left a wedding reception and was an hour into their trip.
Investigators say a drunk driver, Dana Schoen, heading the opposite direction, approached. Schoen is charged with causing the deadly crash. The Minnesota State Patrol said his blood-alcohol level was .351, more than four times the legal limit.
Police say Schoen hit the family’s car head on. Heather tried swerving to miss him, but couldn’t. Brad and Drake were buckled in for the ride to the family cabin.
“You know, we were two miles from where we were going, and it’s like the worst nightmare possible happened,” Heather said.
The Bigler’s car flew into a ditch near Starbuck. Brad suffered a concussion, broke several ribs and had to be rushed to the hospital. Drake was seriously hurt.
“Just being with Drake, knowing that when he wasn’t crying, it wasn’t a good sign,” Heather said. “And I think that’s the hardest thing I had to do was to watch him get hooked up to tube after tube, and then the physicians hearing he’s brain dead and then holding him till he passed.”
Heather and Brad have been through counseling, trying to make sense of what’s happened. They’re also getting back into a routine.
Brad’s back coaching the men’s basketball team at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Heather is back at Marshall Middle School as a social worker and counselor.
“Part of the healing process is being around those young guys, trying to keep them going in the right direction has been a big help,” Brad said.
They are also reflecting on what happened. They believe they made the right choice by letting Nash and Taleigha stay behind to dance with their grandparents at the wedding reception. They were far from the car crash that took their little brother’s life.
“We made a decision, and that probably honestly saved their lives,” Brad said. “And in a lot of ways, you’re thankful for some of the things that also happened.”
The Marshall community helped them when they needed it most by supporting them with letters and prayers. They don’t believe the pain of losing Drake — a happy, energetic little boy — will ever go away, but he’ll always be in their hearts.