Newborn survives collision that kills mom, dad, big brother
By Claudette Riley, Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader
BARNETT, Mo.–On Sunday, Gabriel James Wilcox was born shortly after 10 p.m., weighing a little under 7 pounds and was 19 inches long.
Two days later, the infant became an orphan when the car his parents, Marty and Elisa Wilcox, were driving was involved in a head-on crash that also killed his 3-year-old brother.
"It's just a nightmare," said Gabriel's grandmother, Angela Hartwig, who is now caring for the infant.
"(Elisa) was my oldest daughter and she was so happy to be bringing her baby home."
On Sunday evening, after a false alarm earlier in the day, Marty and Elisa Wilcox rushed back to Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach. They were confident their baby — originally due on Leap Day — was coming a little early.
"They loved each other so much and were so happy," Hartwig said of the couple, together for eight years. "They were so excited to have the baby."
The baby was born healthy.
On Tuesday morning, the couple was told they could take their newborn home. Their older son, Marty "Junior" Wilcox, the 3-year-old, was also along for the trip.
The growing family recently decided they needed more room so they moved from an apartment to a house in Eldon, about 100 miles north of Springfield. They spent the past two weeks unpacking, folding baby clothes and getting ready.
On that sunny and clear morning, the family of four left the hospital to make a series of stops.
They visited Marty Wilcox's family, and then stopped by the Miller County Care and Rehabilitation Center in Tuscumbia, a nursing home.
Elisa, who worked as a medical tech there, was eager to show her new baby to her co-workers. Two weeks earlier, they had thrown her a baby shower.
They were en route to visit Elisa's parents, Brad and Angela Hartwig in Barnett — the last stop before home — on Tuesday afternoon.
Angela Hartwig, who stayed away from the hospital because she'd been under the weather, was eager for their arrival.
A couple of worrisome hours passed. Then Hartwig received a call from the coroner.
Miller County Coroner Rick Callahan told her that Marty, 36, and Elisa, 27, were pronounced dead at the scene. The 3-year-old was taken by ambulance to Lake Regional Hospital and died a short time later.
Gabriel, only 40 hours old, was thrown from the vehicle. He was taken by ambulance to the same hospital but then released to the Hartwigs hours later.
"He's only had scratches," she said. "He was fine."
All the adults in the crash were wearing seat belts, the 3-year-old was secured in a booster seat and the baby was in an infant car seat.
Attorney Tim Cisar said emergency guardianship of Gabriel has been given to Angela Hartwig. He has also helped the family set up a memorial fund for the baby.
The Pontiac driven by Marty Wilcox was hit head-on by a Toyota that crossed the center line. Emily Frakes, 19, also of Eldon, was driving the Toyota.
Frakes was flown to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where she is listed in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit.
Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul Reinsh said it was unclear what factors led Frakes to cross the center line. The patrol's major crash team is investigating and plans to create a total reconstruction of the wreck, which could take four to six weeks.
In a sad twist, Elisa Wilcox and Frakes worked together at the nursing home, where the shower had been held only days earlier. Frakes, a nurse's aide, was on her way to work.
"We are certainly thinking and praying for the families of the girls," said Rhonda Kurzejeski, director of nursing at the center. "They worked together so everybody knows everybody. It's difficult for everybody."