A family and community grieves
Three young cousins lose lives in Pierce County crash; three sisters each lose a child; one of the mothers critically injured
Gary King | Editor
MILLTOWN/PRESCOTT - Funeral services are being held this week for three young cousins, the daughters of three sisters, as a family is joined by community members in remembering and paying tribute to the young girls.
Lydia Milberg, 11, Centuria; Laynie Jo Amos, 5, Amery, and Clara Pavek, 5, Prescott, Wis., lost their lives as the result of a two-vehicle accident near Prescott on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 12.
They were occupants of an SUV driven by Lydia’s mother, Kari Milberg, 32, who remains hospitalized at Regions Hospital, recovering from injuries.
A fourth passenger in the Milberg vehicle, Kari’s 3-year-old son, Easton Baxter, was treated for injuries at a St. Paul hospital and released.
According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Kari was driving south on Hwy. 35, about six miles south of Prescott when her vehicle spun out of control and into the northbound lane where it was struck in the rear by an oncoming, single-axle straight truck driven by Jose Mendoza, 24, of Rockford, Ill. Mendoza and his two passengers were not injured.
Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said she cannot rule out poor road conditions as being a factor in the accident and said alcohol did not play a role. All children were wearing safety restraints. Kari was thrown from the vehicle, according to the sheriff’s report.
Lydia died at the scene, and her mother, Kari, and cousin, Laynie, were airlifted to Regions. Her brother, Easton, was taken to Regions by ground ambulance for treatment of injuries. Clara was taken by ambulance to River Falls Area Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Laynie died Saturday at Regions. She had brain swelling with less than 1 percent chance of survival, according to doctors.
“Heaven has another angel. Rest in peace, Laynie bug,” a loved one wrote on the family’s CaringBridge site Saturday afternoon.
The mothers of the girls are three Milberg sisters. Lydia was the daughter of Kari Jo Milberg of Centuria and Jeremy D. Tucker of St. Croix Falls. Laynie was the only child of Joe Amos and Kassi Milberg Amos of Amery. Clara was the daughter of Kati Milberg Pavek and Michael Pavek of Prescott.
The deaths and Kari’s ongoing fight for recovery has become the focus of thoughts and prayers of the entire surrounding community.
"Our hearts go out to the families involved in the accident,” Unity Schools Superintendent Brandon Robinson said Friday. “Unity is such a close-knit community and her death affects so many.”
Robinson said Lydia, a sixth-grader at Unity, was “a wonderful student and will be missed greatly.”
He added, “She had a positive attitude and illuminating smile that impacted others around her. She was an amazing girl.” Lydia excelled academically and was involved in athletics, music and other activities and won an all-school jump-rope competition, he noted.
Robinson said additional counseling services were made available at each of Unity’s schools during this difficult time.
“Clara put smiles on everybody’s faces - she was a smile maker,” her father, Michael Pavek told KARE 11 television on Saturday.
Milberg had taken her two children and two nieces to The Giggle Factory, an indoor play center in Hudson, that afternoon and was returning to her sister Kati’s home in Prescott and was just a few blocks away from there when the accident occurred.
Family members, co-workers and friends of Kari Milberg, meanwhile, have been keeping a vigil as she fights to recover from her injuries. A CaringBridge site post noted Kari is showing signs of improvement and breathed on her own, without the help of a ventilator, for several minutes Tuesday and was responding to voices and touch.
The CaringBridge site for Kari has received more than 11,000, visits and community support via social media is growing with one site, which asks everyone to turn their porch light on at 7 p.m. to show support for the family has claimed over 3,000 responses from people in all 50 states and 22 countries.
Family members, meanwhile, try to cope with the reality of their loss.
“It is so very hard to comprehend for us adults,” said Kelly Bakke, a family spokesperson, whose youngest child was a friend and classmate to Lydia. “So difficult.”
MILLTOWN/STILLWATER, Minn. - Funeral services for three young girl cousins who lost their life in a two-vehicle accident Thursday, Dec. 12, have been announced.
A visitation for Laynie Jo Amos, 5, of Amery; and Lydia Milberg, 11, Centuria, will be Friday, Dec. 20, from 4 to 8 p.m., with a children's service at 8 p.m. at Milltown Lutheran Church.
Their funeral will be Saturday, Dec. 21, at 11 a.m. at Milltown Lutheran.
Visitation for Clara Pavek, 5, of Prescott, Wis., will be held Wednesday, Dec. 18, from 4 to 8 p.m. and one hour prior to the 11 a.m. service on Thursday, Dec. 19, at Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center at 2800 Curve Crest Blvd. in Stillwater, Minn.
A memorial has also been established for Clara at Premier Bank, 2866 White Bear Ave., St. Paul, MN 55109.
Obituaries for Laynie and Lydia can be found in the Currents section of this issue. - with information from funeral homes, CaringBridge and Facebook