The family of the man killed in the Normal West school bus crash last December has many questions that may never be answered.
Charlie Crabtree died in the crash that involved a semitrailer truck driver traveling the wrong direction on Interstate 74 near Downs on a snowy night in which the school’s girls junior varsity basketball team was returning from a game.
Crabtree's daughter, Nikki Segobiano, said her father texted her about 20 minutes before the crash. She had fallen asleep that night and later awakened to see her phone alerting her to a series of missed calls and texts.
“I just had a pit in my stomach, wasn’t feeling well all day that day, kind of actually felt off,” Segobiano recalled.
She later found out her father had been involved in a crash and rescue crews were trying to remove him from the bus as he lay unresponsive.
“I kind of knew in my heart of hearts that something was bad,” Segobiano said.
She said it's been hard losing someone she was so close to and not know why.
“We texted and called each other every day. He was my person,” Segobiano said. “So to not have that closure, to not have a why is hard, but I’m also a believer, like my dad was, that life goes on.”
The American Red Cross is honoring Crabtree and the 11 survivors at its Saluting Our Heroes breakfast at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bloomington on Thursday.
Segobiano, who works as an administrative assistant of special education in Unit 5, said she appreciates all Normal West has done for the family after the tragedy.
“They have really shown how much they loved him and this is why I know the reason he spent his time there is because of how they treated him,” she said. “He was a part of the West family.”
Normal West recently unveiled a memorial mural the school commissioned in his honor.
Segobiano added all those involved in the crash, including coach Steve Price who was badly injured in the crash, have since become an extension of the Crabtree family.
“This unfortunate incident has brought us all together, as a family,” Segobiano said, adding Price has become “like a brother to me.”
Crabtree’s wife Kathleen filed a lawsuit in January against the semi driver’s employer, Jason Farrell Trucking of Iowa. The semi driver, 34-year-old Ryan Hute, also died in the crash.
The plaintiff’s attorney Jim Ginzkey has said the family would like to use settlement money to establish a scholarship at Normal West and Normal Community high schools, since Crabtree served as a volunteer at both schools.
Segobiano said the family has raised about $3,000 for a “Live Like Charlie” fund through a garage sale and sales of T-shirts.
“What I’ve been trying to preach is live your life like Charlie,” she said. “Take one moment out of your day to say a kind word to a stranger, to help somebody in need, just to reach out to people and let them know they are loved and cared about the way he did with me especially and my family and the way he did with everybody.”
The case is still awaiting trial. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
The Red Cross will also honor two men who helped saved the lives of others. Harvey Dorsey of Bloomington was taking a short cut while driving to deliver newspapers last winter when he came upon a 93-year-old man who has collapsed outside in frigid temperatures. Dorsey gave the man a coat and made sure he was alert before calling for help.
David Hammond came to the aid of David Stokes whose heart had stopped for several minutes while exercising at a Bloomington gym last December.
Jordan Curtis of Sidney will also be honored. She helped Ameren develop a driver's education safety program throughout the state of Illinois after she had to dodge live power lines that had surrounded her during a storm.
Tickets for the breakfast are available at redcross.org/salutingourheroes.
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