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Girl who survived TRAX accident leaves the hospital



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SALT LAKE CITY -- In a horrific accident nearly month ago, a car full of young adults was hit by an oncoming TRAX train. Two people in the car died--including the driver--but two survived. Friday, one of the survivors was able to go home from the hospital.

Kristine Velasquez has no memory of the crash. She's been in the hospital for 21 days, most of the time unconscious and hooked up to machines, but she's making a remarkable recovery.

She knows her age and knows she was in an accident, but ask her much more than that and her dad, Paul, says she gets confused.

"I just can't believe it happened," she told us.

"She has a brain injury; she has memory problems; she doesn't remember anything. She'll have to do everything over again. And they're not sure how long recovery will be," Paul said.

Kristine was riding with some of her co-workers and was on her way to a store meeting when the driver, 21-year-old Alex Amundson, drove the vehicle around a railroad crossing arm. The car was hit by an oncoming TRAX train. Amundson and 18-year-old Donald Callison were killed.

Another 19-year-old passenger and Kristine survived with serious injuries, but doctors told Kristine's family to prepare for the worst.

"The way they made it sound, I thought she was dead," Paul said.

The fact that she is alive at all, Paul says, is a miracle. But that doesn't mean the girl he brought home is the daughter he knew before.

"She's my daughter, yeah, but not the same, no," he said. "Her attitude, she's just straight, doesn't laugh, nothing."

Doctors told him Kristine has years of rehabilitation ahead of her. Even then, his bubbly, spontaneous daughter may never be the same. But he says he's not bitter -- he's grateful she survived.

"Just getting her stronger, healthier, back to the way she was, if I can. If not, I'll just take her any way I've got her," he said. "Just glad to have my daughter. I'd do anything for her."

Kristine has a long road ahead of her, but she is able to walk on her own, which is a huge accomplishment.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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Jennifer Stagg

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