Gallup Independent


By Richard Reyes

Staff Writer

The death toll in the Greyhound bus crash has risen to nine as one of the twins born at a Gallup hospital died in Albuquerque Thursday, according to information from the family’s fundraising website.

After a semitrailer crashed into a Greyhound bus on Interstate Highway 40 near Thoreau Aug. 30, Christy Ann Westerdale, of Stockton, California — identifed via television station WTXL based in Sacramento — gave birth to twins prematurely at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital in Gallup.

Westerdale’s 4-year-old daughter Paityn and father of the children Joseph Chandler were also on the bus during the crash.

Christy Ann’s grandmother Nancy Westerdale stated on a Go Fund Me page dedicated to raising money for the family’s journey home that the family were on their way back to California when their van broke down. They decided to take a Greyhound bus to complete their journey.

Christy Ann, who was seven months pregnant, was knocked unconscious in the crash and awoke in severe pain at RMCH with a broken leg, smashed knee, broken elbow, separated pelvis and numerous cuts. Chandler had severe internal bruising and Paityn was uninjured.

‘Critical condition’

The twins, who were in critical condition, were taken to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Nancy Westerdale announced Sunday that one of the 1-week-old twins died Thursday.

“It is with heavy heart that I am letting you know our little Jordyn Rose passed away on 9/6/18,” Nancy Westerdale wrote in an update. “Please continue your prayers and blessings for the family. Christy, Joseph, Paityn and baby Joseph Wayne. We appreciate your kindness. Thank you.”

The UNM Health Sciences Center announced Sunday that one patient at UNM Hospital had died and two had been discharged. The hospital is still treating three patients.

Christy Ann Westerdale was discharged from RMCH and could not be reached for comment. Nancy Westerdale did not respond to an email seeking information.

Immediate assistance

The family has raised $11,300 from 204 people on their Go Fund Me page — more than doubling their goal of $5,000.

Prior to the Go Fund Me fundraiser, several staff members at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services, with help from Lighthouse International Ministries, provided immediate assistance by donating money and clothes to the family.

Cassandra Lopez-Martinez, the administrative director for outpatient clinics at RMCHCS, said that she and other employees figured out the family’s needs and started gathering money and items.

Lopez-Martinez said she bought some dolls and coloring books for 4-year-old Paityn, who was very talkative and appeared to be in good spirits.

Lopez-Martinez said RMCHCS Chaplin Kris Pickert got some milk and snacks for Paityn, who said she liked to blow bubbles.

“So Kris gave her a straw with milk and she started blowing bubbles,” Lopez-Martinez said. “She was just a darling. She was just a bundle of joy. She was so cute. She reminded me of my granddaughter.”

Knowing the girl’s favorite colors and estimating her size, employees went out to buy clothes for her and her family, as well as shoes because they were all barefoot.

‘It’s what we do’

Lopez-Martinez said she spoke with the assistant chief nursingofficer about collecting money, so Lopez- Martinez went around to the different departments to ask for donations. Within about an hour and a half, hospital staff had raised more than $1,300.

“Because we always take care of people who need help,” Lopez-Martinez said. “It’s just what we do. When there’s somebody in need, everybody pitches in.”

Pickert echoed the sentiment.

“It’s what we do,” she said. “It’s what we’re put on this Earth to do. Certainly what we’re put in this place to do.”

Pickert said the RMCHCS staff is so amazing that they also immediately started pitching in money for a patient who thought he needed a hotel for the night. Pickert said that within 30 seconds, she collected $160 in donated cash. Pickert ended up giving the money back to those who donated, however, because Greyhound ended up paying for survivors’ hotel accommodations.

“It was just remarkable that no sooner had that come out of my mouth, the staff were just reaching into their pockets and throwing cash at me,” Pickert said.

Making patients whole

In a news release, CEO David Conejo released the following statement: “RMCHCS goes beyond traditional medical care. We look to make our patients whole and if that means helping a young girl and her family return to emotional as well as physical wellness, then we have done our job. We wish the Westerdale-Chandler family all of the best in their recovery and speedy return to their home in California.”

New Mexico State Police investigate the scene where debris lay scattered across Interstate Highway 40 Aug. 30 when a semitrailer crashed head-on into a Greyhound bus traveling to Los Angeles, California. Eight people were killed in the crash and now a ninth person has died a baby as a result of the crash.

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