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The Great Hang Up - A Family Loss

10:52 PM, May 4, 2010   |    comments
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They're daughter died after texting and driving. Two grieving parents share their story so they can spare you and your family the same hurt they are dealing with.

"She loved math, she loved science classes. She was a straight-A student. She had applied and already got accepted to the University of Texas-Austin, Cal Berkley," says Greg Heil.

Victoria Heil was a classic over-achiever. She was also a typical teenager.

"She didn't give us any reason to worry," says her mom, Amy.

One of the reasons Amy and Greg didn't worry, they bought Victoria a cell phone.

"The cell phone was this great parenting tool, is how we looked at it. We knew where she was, I could call her at anytime, I knew she would answer. If she didn't answer, she would get in trouble," says Amy.

Three days after Christmas, 2008, dressed in a new outfit, Victoria headed out to exchange gifts with her friends. At 11:40 that night, she called home as she was driving.

"I put her on speaker, so my mom and dad and Greg and I could speak to her," says mom.

Shortly after midnight ...

"According the witness, she was driving straight and then just boom, hit the guardrail," says Amy.

A friend called the Heils and said they saw Victoria's jeep. Greg and Amy rushed to the scene.

"When we got there, the road was blocked with fire trucks and the police, and when we got out of the car, they met us and they wouldn't let us go over."

In a horrifying blur, they were told their daughter was dead. Then, they had to do the unthinkable.

"They put her in an ambulance and then had us come up and identify her," says Greg.

Victoria's two older sisters were at the scene waiting for the news.

"It was just the hardest thing to go tell our daughters," says Amy.

Instead of friends signing her yearbook, they and family wrote epitaphs.

"Dear Vic, you have always had the brightest smile I have ever seen. I am so thankful to have met a sweet girl like you," was one note written in Victoria's yearbook.

"Who's to question God why he took you from us," wrote another.

One month later, the Heil's learned the cause of the crash, texting.

"We were shocked."

Police had found records of text messages between Victoria and a friend.

"The text messaging was occurring all the way up to 12:05, right before the crash. The last test message he said, Victoria, we probably shouldn't be doing this while you're texting and driving," says her dad.

"Sometimes I am, I still can't believe I wake up in the morning and I think, I cannot believe, you know, my daughter is gone. And I still think, oh, I need to tell Victoria that you know she would think that this is funny, you know. Then I see kids in college, I think, you know, what would she be doing. That's a cute outfit, I bet Victoria would like that. You know it's very painful. You know cause you don't want to be the mother that lost her child. You don't want to be those parents. You really want to go back and just redo, you know, and put controls on the cell phone and I just wish I could go back," says mom.

She was a child any parent would be proud to claim. Up until the moment she died, she was doing what many teenagers do, texting and driving.

"You get them this device so you know where they are and yet you know in our case, it was the death instrument. It's hard," says dad.

Greg and Amy signed the Great Hang Up pledge saying Victoria would be proud. They tell their story, reliving the pan of their loss so other parents will not have to know what it feels like to be them.

"Victoria was brilliant. Victoria wanted to make a difference in the world and now she's making that difference, she's just making that difference through us."

 

WFMY News 2 / WXIA

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