Relatives of Crash Victims Hold News Conference

Relatives of Crash Victims Hold News Conference

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Relatives of six people killed in a motor-home accident in Utah held a news conference with surviving family members and thanked all those who have shown support and compassion.

Joel Hill, the family's spokesman, told the news conference Wednesday at LDS Hospital that his family has felt the love and prayers of everyone, from the hospital staff to a Utah motorist who passed the scene of the accident and sent one of the survivors an e-mail of support.

"Salt Lake City has been absolutely tremendous to us," he said, adding that Utah people were mourning with the family. "Absolutely every single one of you ... are breaking down."

Mark and Margerie Mattila of West Richland, Wash., and their four youngest children were killed Sunday when their rented motor home went off an Interstate 15 overpass near Draper, a Salt Lake suburb, and smashed into an embankment.

Investigators do not know what caused the vehicle driven by the father to go off the highway, but have speculated wind may have been a factor.

The family was returning home after a holiday vacation in Arizona.

Killed in addition to Mark Mattila 41, and Marjorie, 35, a native of Rindge, N.H., were their children Max, 7; Katie, 6; Marci, 4; and Adam, 5 months. Survivors were Brent, 12, who remained in critical condition at Primary Children's Medical Center; Misty, 18; Jordan, 14; and Shane, 9.

One other child, Curt, 17, had remained in Washington to play basketball in a church league.

The news conference was attended by four of the children, including Curt. He and several friends and relatives were flown by a chartered plane to Salt Lake City.

They comforted the children as they cried during the news conference. Shane was taken from the press conference shortly after it started because he was crying uncontrollably.

"We just can't understand why," said Hill, a brother of Margerie. "We cried. We mourned. We hurt."

The Hills will assume guardianship of the underage Mattilas, he said.

He thanked paramedics for their fast response, personnel at all the hospitals, the motorist who e-mailed Misty, motel employees for helped the family and friends find somewhere to stay, news organizations who have told the family's story without invading their privacy and Utah people for their continued prayers.

He told of one nurse who searched repeatedly until she could replace Misty's glasses, which were lost in the accident.

Now, the family plans to move on with their lives, he said. Jordan will go to a hockey tournament this weekend, Shane will take hockey lessons and the family will continue to support Curt at his basketball games.

Funeral services will be held in Vancouver, Wash., on Jan. 8.

A fund has been established for the survivors at U.S. Bank.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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