Teen Who Lost Entire Family in Plane Crash Has Tough Road Ahead

Jacqueline Burt Cote

plane crashAshlei Bruewer has either the best luck in the world or the worst -- or maybe both. The 16-year-old lost her entire family -- mother, stepfather, and five younger siblings -- in one fell swoop when their small plane crashed in Alabama on Saturday night. The brood was on their way home to Florida from a family reunion in St. Louis, Missouri, when the Cessna C241 lost its right engine. The ages of the children on board were 2, 4, 6, 9, and 10.

It's not clear why big sister Ashlei stayed behind, though I can think of about a thousand reasons why a teenager would prefer to skip a family reunion weekend. Whatever the reason, her decision will haunt her forever.

If ever there was a candidate for Survivor's Guilt, it's this poor girl. I hope she was spared the more gruesome details of the crash, like how officials had to use an infra-red camera to locate the bodies because they were burned "beyond recognition," but this doesn't seem likely -- teens don't generally have much trouble accessing public information, after all. Her stepfather, Fred Teutenberg, is said to have been piloting the small aircraft when it went down. I wonder if a part of her can't help but blame him for the loss of her mother and siblings. Probably, though, as most kids do when something bad happens to their family, she'll put most of the blame on herself.

This story is tragic on so many levels: The young lives cut short; the senselessness of sudden, violent accidents. But death is always saddest for those left behind, and most of all for a young girl like Ashlei Bruewer, whose life will be defined by this trauma.

How do you think Ashlei Bruewer will cope with the loss of her family?

Image via Claire Schmitt/Flickr

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