Hmong community leaders are asking for support and donations after a Hmong father and his two children died in a car crash in Ham Lake, Minnesota.
Lee Vang, 28, was driving his family westbound in an SUV on Bunker Lake Boulevard when he crashed head-on into a pickup truck towing a trailer after 3 p.m. on Aug. 28. The crash killed him, his 3-year-old daughter Astrid and 6-month-old son Levi. His wife Rhodia Xiong, 26, and his 7-year-old daughter Kyrie survived the impact but were severely injured.
Xiong reportedly broke her arm, and Kyrie is in critical condition. The oldest daughter remains unresponsive and sedated at the hospital, according to family members. Xiong was released from the hospital on Tuesday evening.
The two men in the truck suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
Law enforcement agencies, including the Minnesota State Patrol and Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, are still investigating the crash. It is not clear what led Vang to cross the median into oncoming traffic. Authorities are also inspecting whether the children were placed in their car seats and if drugs or alcohol were involved.
“A crash like this is just devastating, not just for the families involved but the greater community,” Tierney Peters of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department told CBS News. “It’s just an important reminder to drive safely, make sure you are following the speed limit, to make sure you are not distracted, making sure your only job when you are driving is to be a safe driver.”
The Hmong 18 Council in St. Paul organized a news conference with the victims’ family members on Tuesday evening.
“The last few days have been a whirlwind, trying to really comprehend the loss of not just my brother, but my niece and my nephew,” Vang’s sister, Maxine Vue, said. “They were so young. It’s such a tragedy. Just trying to come to terms that they’re not here with us.”
“I miss them so much,” Vang’s mother Yeng said through a translator. “I don’t know how to live anymore. The house is so quiet without them, my grandkids. That is my son, who I live with. He’s the one who cooks for me. He’s the one who takes care of me. I miss him so much. Every time I think about him, I cry. I can’t sleep.”
The car crash is just one of many tragedies to have impacted the Hmong American community in the Twin Cities this summer.
In July, a 23-year-old Hmong mother drowned her three children and herself in Vadnais Lake the same day her husband died by suicide in their Maplewood home. In another murder-suicide case last month, a Hmong father fatally shot his wife before killing himself in their home with their children present. A 70-year-old Hmong woman was also killed in a hit-and-run crash involving a stolen car in St. Paul on July 17.
“For me, and for community leaders, we’re still trying to understand why this happens, with the summer here,” Hmong 18 Council President Paul Xiong told KARE 11said. “Three events, three tragedies … we just don’t know what to say. We’re all just in shock mode at this point.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Xiong’s co-worker to help raise funds for the family’s funeral and medical expenses. TWith a goal of $50,000 goal, the fundraiser has received nearly $30,000 of its $50,000 goal, as of this writing.
“On behalf of the Hmong community, I would like to ask the community for support, for donations for the funeral costs and for the hospital bills for the two still at the hospital,” Paul Xiong said.
Featured Image via CBS News