Dozens of people came out to a home in Atchison, KS, New Year's Day evening to remember a 15-year-old girl who died in a wreck. The car she was in went down a ravine and into a pond. Her sister was behind the wheel.
Knowing that an 18-year-old driver was involved in a car wreck that killed her little sister is a situation that's difficult to imagine. But everyone who gathered at the home Tuesday handled the sadness with tremendous grace.
"She's up in heaven and she's probably looking down on us and just smiling," Felicity Crossland, 18, said.
More than 200 people gathered around a fire pit to stay warm, many of them young teens. They were all friends of the girl who died and the older sister who tried desperately to save her.
"I will cherish every single moment I have spent with her because I love her so much and she wasn't just my sister. She was my best friend," Crossland said to those in attendance.
Crossland's mother stood at her side as she described her shadow, her protégé, her confidante.
"She never let me down. She was always there for me," Crossland said.
Crossland slid off the road from an icy patch along U.S. Highway 73 near County Road 33 in Leavenworth, KS, just after 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Investigators said she lost control and overcorrected, sending her car down into a ravine and through a fence where it flipped and landed in a pond.
The car was sinking, she was inside with her sister and a friend and water and ice were coming in. Crossland said she managed to kick out a window.
"I kicked and kicked and kicked. I did not stop kicking. I had to go underwater. It was awful because it was so cold, but I couldn't stop. I had to do something," she said.
Crossland, who was just released from the hospital Monday, told KCTV5 by phone that her friend and her sister screamed for help as the car filled with freezing water. She said she somehow managed to get a window down and help everyone escape. She said, at that point, everyone blacked out, suffering from hypothermia.
Desirae Crossland, 15, was last to make it out and did not survive.
In a series of heartbreaking Facebook posts, Felicity Crossland broke the horrible news to friends and loved ones.
But Desirae memory will continue because Crossland will be sure of it.
"I'm just glad the last words I got to say to her were, 'Desi, I love you so much. I will never take anything for granted because I love you,'" Crossland said.
One other thing Crossland said to the crowd is that she's upset that she lost her sister, but also a little bit bolstered, knowing that she now has a guardian angel.
Services for Desirae will be later this week. Visitation is Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Becker Dyer Stanton Funeral Home in Atchison, KS. The funeral will be at Memorial Hall in Atchison on Friday at 2 p.m.
The funeral home has a place on their website for people to donate to help Desirae Crossland's family, offer condolences and more. Click here for more information.
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