Public Safety

Mother and four daughters were victims in County Home Road crash

Girls, ages 16 and 13, died, Sheriff's Office reports

MARION — Hundreds of students and staff gathered outside Linn-Mar High School Friday night to mourn two girls killed in a car collision Thursday on a rural Linn County road.

Linn-Mar High junior Selena Apodaca, 16, and her sister Isabella Severson, 13, a student at Excelsior Middle School, died in the crash.

Throughout the vigil, the large group of students sang, released purple and white balloons and laid bouquets of flowers outside the school.

A group of Selena’s close friends leaned on each other and said they’ll remember some of the small moments:

The mornings before school when she’d sit down at their regular table and start curling her eyelashes, Natalie Shepherd, 17, recalled.

How hard Selena laughed when she tried, and failed, to hop a fence, said Payton Wensel, 16.

Or how she’d always manage to break a nail right after paying for a manicure, said McKayla Beltz, 17, as the group started to laugh.

Every day, the girls said, they’ll think about Selena.

“I want people to know how good of a friend she was and what great advice she gave,” said Carly Rima, 15, starting to cry. “And she will be missed.”

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According to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office Jennifer Perez, 37, was in her 2007 Chevy Aveo with her four children — Selena and Isabella, along with Elysia Severson, 14 and a 4-year-old who was not identified in a news release — on County Home Road north of Robins at 3:44 p.m. Thursday. Authorities said Perez was stopped behind a 1997 Dodge Ram pickup driven by Jaymus Wilson, 16, of Robins, that was waiting to turn left onto North Troy Road.

The sheriff’s office said Perez’s car was rear-ended by a westbound 2009 Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by 35-year-old Keith Furne of Cedar Rapids. Perez’s vehicle was then forced into the Dodge Ram.

Authorities said Perez and the 4-year-old — who was in a child safety seat — were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital with serious injuries, before being transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Elysia Severson, a freshman at Linn-Mar High, was flown from the scene to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Authorities said Selena Apodaca and Isabella Severson were pronounced dead at the scene.

A friend of Elysia Severson, 14-year-old Summer Ainsworth, said at school the morning after the crash it “felt like something was missing.”

“It’s sad to think yesterday everything was just fine,” added Hope Lewis, 14.

A team of counselors from the Linn-Mar district and the Grant Wood Area Education Agency were at the school Friday to support students and staff.

“It was tough, but good,” Associate Superintendent Shannon Bisgard said of school on Friday. “There was a lot of support for each other.”

Linn-Mar staff were on the outskirts of the vigil too, in a show of support for the student-organized vigil.

“It’s eye-opening, I appreciate what I have.” said custodian Faith Liabeth, as a girl rushed into her arms for a hug. “Always, no matter what it is in life, tell them you appreciate it.”

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Authorities have not released information on what may have caused the fatal crash, which remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office and Marion Police Department.

Furne, the driver of the pickup, was transported to Mercy Hospital with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries, the sheriff’s office said.

The passengers of the car in front of Perez, Wilson and his 8-year-old brother, were wearing their seat belts and not injured in the collision, police said.

Furne and Perez were both wearing their seat belts, authorities said. Investigators are still determining whether Elysia — who was in the front seat of the car — and Selena and Isabella — who were in the back seat — were wearing seat belts.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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