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I saw two people die today – UPDATED January 9, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery, sadness.

The snow was beautiful in North Texas.  My wife wanted to go to Mass at Mater Dei in Dallas, thinking it would be a safer trip.  She was right.  But I decided to press on to St. William in Greenville for Novus Ordo Latin Mass.  Conditions on the way out were not too bad, but the rain did change to snow about the time we got to Nevada.  The Mass, celebrated by Fr. Weinberger, was very good, as usual.  After Mass, conditions had deteriorated a fair amount, so I began pressing for us to leave pretty quickly.  The kids dallied a bit in the cafeteria at the breakfast the Knight’s were putting on, which we did not partake of, and we got loaded up in the car.  I was glad we did.  As we drove out, the roads were much more covered in a mixture of snow and sleet than they had been previously.

I went about 10-15 mph slower than usual.  On the road between Greenville and Caddo Mills, SH 66, I saw a car had spun out, but they were ok and getting back on the road.  Then we rounded a small rise, and I saw it – something very big laying crosswise across the road.  A tractor trailer jacknife?  No….worse.  As we approached, my wife was telling me to get there quick – there was a Dodge pickup on the road, flipped on its side, and a small black car (a Neon) down in the ditch.  The car was in bad shape.

I saw the guy climb out of the truck and sit up on the sill, 6 ft up in the air.  He had an umbrella, because it was snowing and sleeting very hard now.  My wife ran down to the car, because she has paramedic training, and I asked the guy from the pickup if he was OK.  He was, but said his legs hurt some and he didn’t want to get down yet.  By this time, another vehicle had stopped to render aid, while a few more had driven by the scene.  I got on the phone to call 911, and couldn’t remember the number of the highway we were on.  I finally communicated it, while I ran back to our Suburban to get the medical bag we always have.  When I got back to the small car, the guy from the other vehicle that stopped to help told me to toss it down to him, and I went down the embankment.  I heard him talking to 911, giving a very detailed report – it turns out, he’s an off duty Caddo Mills fireman.  Then I looked in the car.

The man, the driver, was slumped over the center console.  His lips were purple.  The fireman on the phone said he could feel a faint pulse.  The little Neon was pulverized – the engine block had caved the dash in on the drivers side at least a foot.  We could not get the front doors open, so the off duty fireman climbed in the back.  My wife tried to assist through the window.  The passenger, a female, had blood all down her chin and neck, and bubbles of blood were issuing from her mouth.  I asked if my wife needed anything from the medical bag, and she said no.  Then, she asked for an airway for the driver, but she couldn’t get it to insert.  By that time, I could hear the approaching sirens – a fire truck from Caddo Mills and an ambulance from Greenville.  The off duty fireman directed them to help the passenger – the driver had already expired.  I had seen a bit of steam issuing from his mouth, and had heard very labored breathing, but that was at the very beginning.  I didn’t know it, but my wife baptized him while I was out getting the medical bag, just in case.  She didn’t baptize the passenger, because, in spite of the blood, she didn’t seem to be in as bad a shape.  I probably witnessed the driver’s passing, but did not know it at the time.

We left the vicinity of the car and let the firemen do their work.  They took the woman from the car pretty quickly – the jaws of life work pretty fast.   They loaded her in the ambulance, but the ambulance did not go anywhere.  She did not survive.

This was a young couple, probably in their early thirties.  No children were in the car, thank the Lord.  They were dressed as if they were going to, or leaving, Church.  Both wore seatbelts, and airbags did successfully deploy.  The driver of the pickup, who had lost control while driving over an icy bridge, was uninjured, physically.

We prayed the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the prayers for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for this young couple.  I am certain more prayers would be of great benefit.  I had never witnessed someone die before.

Requiem aeternam dona mihi.  Domine, et lux aeterna luceat mihi.  Requiescam in pace.

UPDATE: A commenter left the names of the deceased here – James and Laci Betterton.  If any others who knew the deceased drop by, I wanted to add that I don’t believe either suffered at all.  We arrived at the accident site within 20-30 seconds of the collision, and neither was conscious.  I don’t believe either felt anything – neither regained consciousness at any point that I could determine.  My condolences to the families involved.  Apparently, I was wrong about the female in the accident, Laci Betterton, dying at the accident site – this article states she passed away at Hunt Regional Medical Center.

UPDATE2: I’m getting many people drop by who were friends/loved ones of the couple who died in this awful accident.  I know my description is pretty graphic, and I’m sorry if it’s bothering of you.  I’ve contemplated censoring it – I have a small blog, and did not know if this story would “get out,” as it were, to those who knew the two accident victims.  I don’t mean for anyone to suffer more, but I wrote this post a few hours after the incident, so I was kind of venting all that I had seen and been shocked by.   It’s still weighing on my heavily 3 days later.  I will continue praying for them.  Let me know if you think I should edit it to take out some of the rougher parts.

UPDATE3: A commenter kindly left details on the funeral services for Laci and James Betterton.  Visitation is Wed at 6 at the Rader Funeral Home in Kilgore. Funeral is at 1, Thursday at the Forest Home Baptist Church in Kilgore.  I will do a separate post with this information.


1. Colleen Hammond - January 9, 2011

Speechless…what a horrible thing to witness.

We missed you today at Mater Dei, but we praise God that you and your wife were there for that young couple.


Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.

2. Colleen Hammond - January 9, 2011

Kyrie eleison…

We missed you this morning at Mater Dei, but God had other plans.

Praise God that you were there to Baptize!

We do not know the day nor the hour.

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,et lux perpétua lúceat eis.Requiéscant in pace. Amen.

3. MelissaG - January 10, 2011

We will keep them and your family in our prayers tonight. God bless you for your quick action and the help you gave.

4. Raulito - January 10, 2011

May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.

5. A few thoughts on yesterday « A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - January 10, 2011

[…] I’ve been having a few thoughts related to the tragedy we were part of yesterday: […]

6. zxcsa wdfasdfsad - January 10, 2011

I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic School through High School – please understand that I am tired of seeing people mislead by the Church leadership and it’s time the Catholic Church be exposed for what it really is – read on if you dare ….

The POPE is a DOPE – The Catholic Church has been out of date since we emerged from the dark ages ! If anyone really believes in the hoc-us pocus that the predatory and perverted priests preach from the pulpit then I would guess that those that blindly follow the POPE and the teachings of the Church are desperately in need of a large dose of REALITY ! Wake up and join the 21st century and become a free thinking human being and realize that what you are hearing from the Catholic Church is 500 years outdated mid-evil bull s@#t!

The Catholic Church has become a huge global corporation and money making machine – this is a business that uses mind control to ruin less intelligent individuals and take their cash while raping their children – Fu@k you POPE !

7. Music - January 11, 2011

Their names were James and Laci Bettertonm 23 and 25. They were Music Teachers, he in Garland at Freeman Elementary and she in Rockwall at Pullen Elementary. They were returning home from working a church job n Greenville. God Bless you and your wife and the others for your help Sunday.

8. Friend - January 11, 2011

Thank you. They were amazing people. Laci and James were 25 and 24, respectively. They lit up the room where ever they were. These people were my friends, I will miss them so very much.

9. Mary - January 11, 2011

I was the first to assist at the scene. To the friends of James and Laci, I pray for their souls. They were more than likely knocked unconscious immediately, but both still alive. Although I didn’t know them, I did what a friend would do – help them, pray with and for them, and just be with them during their last moments. I asked them to take Jesus by the hand, whatever He had planned for them, and stay close to Him, that Jesus would take care of them.

I pray all of you mourning the loss of James and Laci be comforted by the hand of God. Draw close to Him, do not let anger into your heart. These beautiful souls, we pray, will be in heaven, for eternal happiness. They died on the feast of the baptism of our Lord, with an annointing of snow.
I will forever remember and pray for James and Laci.
May God bless you all.

Friend - January 12, 2011

Thank you so very very much. Inspirational.

LaMarcus - January 14, 2011

Mary, this is beautiful! Thank you soo very much, you have no idea how therapeutic reading this was! Your beautifully phrased words will forever live with me “They died on the feast of the baptism of our Lord, with an anointing of snow” Glory be To God in the Highest!

10. Jocelyn - January 11, 2011

oh gracious..so difficult to read when they were our friends..however, I am so very thankful that these people were there. Thank you. There are not words enough to describe how thankful we all are that you were a comfort to be both Laci and James. Knowing that they were hearing comforting words about their Savior does give ease to our hearts..somewhat.
God bless you

11. LaMarcus - January 11, 2011

Lacy and James were very good friends of mine, They visited me often in Dallas. This was very difficult to read….But thank you for the aid you gave them. I wish you could of known the people you were helping they were beyond Extraordinary!

12. Amanda - January 11, 2011

Thank you. It was Divine that you and your family were there to be with them at their time of passing. Thank you so much for taking care of them.

May you and your family be blessed for being stewards of the Lord.

13. April Payne - January 11, 2011

God bless you for being with my precious James and Laci when I could not. I love them so much. So very much.
Your words are so comforting.

14. Jamal Walker - January 11, 2011

The thing that hurts me the most is that this really happened. I got the news Sunday night and I still don’t believe it. James was my first friend in college and Laci was also a great friend. I just don’t want to accept it, but every day when I wake it, it’s still true. Thank you for doing all you could to save them. They were great people and we are going to miss them.

15. Amanda - January 11, 2011

I don’t feel that an edit of your blog is necessary at all. For me, the mysterious details haunt me more than knowing the difficult truth. Knowing that they were not alone, did not suffer terribly, and that they were prayed upon is wonderful knowledge. We thank you.

16. Swann - January 11, 2011

I attended college with Laci and James. They were great musicians, friends, and a great sister (Laci of course) She helped me through some of the hardest times I had in college. Thank you for your blog. I wondered how sudden it happened, and this blog brought some closure to me. God Bless you!

17. Ethan - January 11, 2011

I appreciate the frankness of your details despite how difficult they were to read. As I mentioned elsewhere, as someone who is easily rubbed the wrong way the best thing I can say about them is that I can’t remember ever being upset at their hand. They were wonderful people. I specifically have a found memory of a recital performance with James. He was so charismatic and charming. His demeanor could sell a performance even if he didn’t have a wonderful voice full of character.

I worry most of all of the students that must be facing an immense amount of grief this week. I also have sympathy for the people are hired to fill their enormous shoes.

I thank you for the blog and for the care given.

18. Robyn - January 12, 2011

Laci was one of my sisters in college. I heard about her death early yesterday morning, and a mutual friend directed me to this blog. I wanted to thank you for posting this – it helps a little to know what happened, and to realize that it’s very likely neither of them suffered.

19. Marla - January 12, 2011

James was one of the first friends I made when I transferred to Commerce. Laci was a sister to me in Mu Phi. I have wonderful memories of them. They were both lovely people and I miss them very much. My words really can’t express what I’m feeling right now. Thank you for caring for my friends and I appreciate your words.

20. jb - January 12, 2011

Your blog answers a lot of those nagging “what if” questions. The fact that you were so soon upon the scene, had some training and your wits about you is comforting because they had help so immediately. Thank you for helping with aid and prayer and of course, the comforting of their friends.

21. Friend - January 12, 2011

No editing needed. Although is was tough to read, every bit of this blog has eased the pain of our loss just a little. Personally, I know I wondered about details and “what ifs”… having answers really makes the grief a little easier. Thank you so much. and just incase you would like the information: Visitation is Wed at 6 at the Rader Funeral Home in Kilgore. Funeral is at 1, Thursday at the Forest Home Baptist Church in Kilgore.

you have helped us all more than you know. Thank you. Bless you.

22. Destiny - January 12, 2011

Your post, though difficult to read, helped to provide answers to the “what if’s” and the nightmare I had last night after hearing of their passing, of Laci and James dying alone. It is comforting to know that they were surrounded by love. My heart aches for the loss, as they were both two of my favorite people, and some of my first friends when returning to school to complete my degree. I will always be thankful that I knew Laci and James, and look forward to seeing them again in Heaven. Thank you for answering the “what if’s”…

23. Laurie - January 12, 2011

Thank you for this! Though it was so hard to read, I’m so glad to know my friends were with loving people to the end and they were not alone. Thank you for stopping! To have more answers helps so much! Thank you again for being so kind

24. Funeral Services for Laci and James Betterton « A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - January 12, 2011

[…] services for Laci and James Betterton, the couple in the car accident I described below, will be held in Kilgore today and tomorrow.   Visitation is Wed at 6 at the Rader Funeral Home […]

25. Jennifer Sharp - January 12, 2011

May God bless you for being available and brave enough to stop and help our friends – they were so sweet, and it is definitely God’s hand that brought you to their side during their last moments. I pray for your peace after having been a part of a tragedy close-up. Thank you for not being afraid to share your faith and belief in God’s saving grace with two people you did not know. Very inspiring and appreciated. Laci and James were loved and will be greatly missed.

26. Mary - January 12, 2011

If any of you readers are in the Dallas area and would like to help set up a memorial concert for James and Laci Betterton, please respond in the comment section and I will contact you back. I know a wonderful man – composer and pianist, Eric Genuis, who will be in town and could be free for the evening of Jan 19, to perform at the school or a local church.
However, I need help getting it set up (location finalized) and help publicizing to all friends, family, and students.

27. Ashle Pereira - January 12, 2011

This has been circulated among their family and friends now. Maybe I am a little more sensitive than other people I am very close to the family, but, this infuriates me. This is callous and very disrespectful to our lost friends. I don’t know who these “authors” are but you should be ashamed of yourselves. You have no right to pass any of this off as factual. We need to preserve the dignity of our loved ones and this only dishonors them. As a favor to those of us who were closest to them, please DO NOT pass this type of garbage around.

Mary - January 12, 2011

Ashle, I apologize if this post upsets you and other readers.

Honestly, this blog wasn’t meant for the family and friends of the Bettertons. But it seems many are viewing this site for whatever reason, and many have expressed appreciation.
Other than meeting the Bettertons at the time of the accident, I never knew them before. I don’t know their family and friends, but I pray for them. We have not forwarded this blog site to anyone, but pray that those who visit can have closure, as one said, knowing they didn’t die alone and had someone caring for them at the time.

As for the story not being factual – I’m sorry, I was the first on the scene, and we stopped despite the ever-increasing hazardous conditions. I witnessed something that keeps me awake at night, I will forever know their faces. My children saw the whole scene develop as they waited patiently in the car.

Again, I pray for all those affected by the death of the Bettertons as well as their own souls, I pray for peace and healing.

tantamergo - January 12, 2011

I’m not certain I understand your concerns – that it’s not factual? It’s as factual as I saw it, I was there. This is something I experienced, it wasn’t meant to be lascivious, it was meant to be descriptive of a trauma my wife and I experienced. We did our best to aid this couple, well before anyone else arrived, and I’d estimate at least 10-12 other vehicles just drove on past the accident scene. If you’re upset at the descriptions, I’m sorry, it’s what my wife and I experienced. I am sorry for your loss.

HP - January 13, 2011

FYI, Ashle is the office secretary at Pullen. That being said, I don’t understand why she is so offended about what was written. The original post was about two people the author didn’t know. Two people who he probably never thought he would learn anything about. He endangered his own life, and that of his wife, to stop and help the Bettertons. His own children will probably never forget what happened that day. It is NOT callous or disrespectful. If anything, it’s probably the most comforting thing a parent can hear. It appears that their death was quick and without pain. It was a relief to be able to share that with my daughter, who was one of Mrs. Betterton’s students. And as a good parent who monitors internet content, I didn’t let it her read it on her own, but shared with her what was pertinent. I lost a close relative in a similar accident, and it was most comforting to speak with the people who stopped to help after the wreck. God bless you and your family for being good samaritans.

28. Mary - January 13, 2011

I think the concern is that some of Laci and James’
students may read this and it is too much for them to handle. My daughter was one of Laci’s students last year and she said one of her friends read this today and became very upset.

29. Mary - January 13, 2011

Although the details were hard to hear, it did comfort me that you were there for these two amazing people during their final moments. I am so glad they were not alone and so glad they did not suffer.Thank you for stopping and doing everything you could to help them.

30. Gai - January 13, 2011

Thank you for posting your experience at the death of our friends. Like other people here have expressed, as sad as I am at their passing, I did take some comfort in that they did not suffer. And some of the anxiety over just not knowing has been quieted. Do not edit your blog. Thank you for stopping and being with James and Laci. It is a comfort that servants of our God were with them at the end. And I hope you can rest in knowing that James and Laci were fine, good christian people who’s souls were ready to meet God.

31. Pullen Parent - January 13, 2011

Thank you for restoring my faith in the goodness of humanity. Given the violence that goes on in this world every day I appreciate that you would stop and render aid and comfort to a young couple in such distress. My kids go to Pullen and loved Laci Betterton. Knowing that Laci and James last moments were spent with servants of the Lord like yourself helped me ease my kids minds as to the reality of what happened. Ashle works at Pullen and was very close to Laci, she is trying to deal with an enormous amount of grief. Thank you for all your efforts and compassion in this situation, I appreciate it very much.

32. Freeman Teacher - January 13, 2011

Thank God for people like you that would stop on such a cold day and try to render aid! I taught school with James and he was a wonderful person and will be sorely missed by everyone here. It is true “he never met a stranger”.
Telling the children in my class of his passing was the single most difficult thing I have had to do in more than 30 years of teaching. But you have answered many of their questions about whether or not they suffered and it will give them a measure of peace. Thank you for all you have done – then and now.

33. tantamergo - January 13, 2011

Thank you so much for all the kind comments. HP pretty much nails it – I was writing for a small audience (some Catholics in the Dallas area) about an experience I had, and did not think it too likely that my writing would be linked by the friends and family of the deceased. I also did not realize how well known and loved the deceased would be. We did what little we could with the time and equipment we had – and as far as second guessing, we were deciding we needed to buy an aspirator and get our oxygen bottle recharged, etc., wondering if we had had these kinds of supplies if it could have made a difference.

Thank you again, I don’t want this to be about me or this post, I’m just glad God has used this experience to provide some comfort.

34. Soprano - January 14, 2011

The Betterton’s were both amazing people. As you can already tell, they knew many people, and touched many peoples lives. I went to school with James and knew Lacy as well. If I had to describe James in one word, it would be Jolly. He told the best stories, and could make anyone laugh. He usually couldn’t finish his stories on account of him laughing so hard. Today, as I sat with my peers, teachers, and many strangers at their funeral, I could feel how much they impacted us all. They were inspiring, loved God, and loved life. Thank you for being there for our friends. I hope that the burden of seeing them at their worst may be eased by knowing that they were two wonderful people, and that they were beautiful inside and out. Seeing them today was hard, but after reading this and knowing what they went through after they passed makes me feel better. You writing about your experience helps ease the pain of knowing that our dear friends could have passed alone but didn’t.

35. Quyn - January 14, 2011

They were my choir counselors this summer. I live in Greenville. I just found out today.

36. Veronica - January 14, 2011

You sharing this story has brought comfort to me. James and Laci were the music ministers of Westview United Methodist Church where I serve as the pastor. During our worship service on Sunday we reaffirmed our baptisms. Laci had come forward that morning as I placed water on her forehead saying “Remember your baptism and be thankful.” However, during this time as each person came forward James was playing the piano. I did not take the opportunity to place water on James. The accident happened on their way home from church. After hearing of the event of their death, I was regretting that I had not done the act of baptismal remembrance for James. I am so glad you baptized him at the scene. James and Laci were very dedicated Christians who offered their gifts of music. Please pray for our congregation as we grieve the loss of this wonderful couple whose love for God was so great.

37. Pullen parent - January 14, 2011

As a parent of children who Laci impacted as their music and choir teacher, I want to thank you for your story. It is obvious in reading the original post that you had no idea who these people were and how many lives they had touched…and that you were simply processing what you had witnessed and gone through. It is clear that you meant no malice or harm to friends and family, and even that you had no idea they would ever even read it. Like the others, I want to thank you for stopping to try to assist, and for being with them as they slipped away.
To reiterate what others have said, Laci (I only met her husband once, so I only know “of” him) was one of the sweetest individuals one could hope to meet. And when I say, “sweetest”, I do mean GENUINELY SWEET and KIND…to EVERYONE. She was a teacher that I could point to and tell my children, “That’s someone that you could strive to be like.” She was truly the teacher that every parent hopes to have in their child’s life, and I consider our family very blessed that my kids were fortunate enough to have had her in theirs, if only for a few years. While we will miss her and her sweet spirit here on earth, heaven has welcomed home one of its finest.

38. Juli Tauzin - January 15, 2011

Mary, I have posted a fairly long comment, but I don’t know if it went through. I am Laci Betterton’s 1st cousin. My name is Juli Tauzin. I am 43 years old,married, and a mother of 3. Please contact me at 318-XXX-XXX [I deleted it – we have your number – ED]. This is my cell number. I just left my uncle and aunt tonight(Laci’s parents). Their names are J.W. and Judy Strickland. God bless your family!

39. Jenny - January 15, 2011

Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ for two of His beloved followers. They are loved and will never be forgotten.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona James et Laci requiem.

I’ll be praying for your family now, too.

40. Pam Jackson - January 17, 2011

I did not know the couple, but, being from Kilgore and now living in Garland, I read the obituaries often from Kilgore. This was such a horrible tragedy. However, your words as hard as they were to read, were beautiful and kind. God definately had a plan for you that day. I only can pray that if anyone i know and love will have a stranger care for them as much as you cared for this young couple.

41. In Christ - January 17, 2011

It is important to note that holy water does not save a person. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Please read the Bible, and you will know the truth. Both of these individuals were Christians, and had a relationship with the Lord. Salvation is a gift that each person must accept of their own free will. You can’t get someone into heaven by sprinkling water on them.

tantamergo - January 17, 2011

I don’t think a discussion of theology is appropriate for this post. I have hundreds of posts you can choose to argue theology, but not on these related to that awful accident.

My wife did what she thought was appropriate at the time, but mostly she held their hands and tried to comfort them, even though they were not conscious.

Friend - January 18, 2011

I continue to read your blog over and over. Your responses to the many comments only affirm my belief that you and your wife are absolutely amazing people. I just wish I could find the words to properly express my graditude. Thank you so much.

tantamergo - January 18, 2011

I have been truly humbled by the Betterton’s friends and family and the comments that have been left. I am not worthy of this praise, but thank you.

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