Hunter family tries moving on after devastating loss

On Dec. 18, 2016, Diamond and Donald Hunter lost their lives due to a no-fault accident at 215th Avenue and Highway 151. Five months later, the family is trying to move on as best they can. Here they are pictured months before the accident. In Front is Brandon Hunter. Middle row are Hope, Molli, Donald and Diamond. In back is family friend Josh Jensen. (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     “Yes, everybody has experience grief, but it’s not the same.”

     Molli Hunter spoke those words during a recent interview with The Monticello Express, five months since the Hunter family lost their two youngest children in a horrific winter accident on Dec. 18, 2016.

     Both 6-year-old Donald and 8-year-old Diamond Hunter died as a result of their injuries from the accident. Survivors include Molli; dad, Brandon; and soon-to-be 14-year-old sister Hope.

     As Brandon explained it, on that day the Hunter family was coming back home to Monticello following a Christmas cookie baking session at their grandfather’s in Anamosa.

     “They were so good,” said Hope, thinking back on that day, exactly a week before Christmas.

     Brandon was driving; as he approached the intersection between 215th Avenue and Highway 151, his vehicle slid through the stop sign going less than 10 mph due to the winter road conditions.

     The Hunters’ vehicle was hit by an on-coming semi truck traveling on 151. Brandon recalled being hit twice by the semi, once on the driver’s side and again head-on.

     Brandon said he rarely takes 215th Avenue leaving his father’s house.

     “He hates taking that route,” said Molli, who has driven it herself a few times.

     Before the Hunters came up on the intersection, Molli had taken her seatbelt off, turned around, and attempted to re-buckle Diamond back into her car seat that she managed to get out of.

     “That’s why I received the worst injuries,” said Molli.

     Hope, who suffered from four fractured ribs, four fractures in her pelvis, a broken tailbone and a concussion, was the first to leave the scene. Hope said the fact that she was seated on the passenger side, behind her mom, saved her life.

     “Hope had the least amount of injuries,” said Molli.

     Hope was transported to Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa then airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. She has no memory of the accident.

     Diamond, who was seated behind Brandon, was ejected and thrown from the vehicle upon impact. She was transported immediately to Iowa City. Donald was seated in the very back of the vehicle, and ended up at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids.

     The two younger Hunter children died a couple of hours after the accident; their injuries were too severe.

     “It was a no-fault accident,” said Molli, meaning neither party was at fault; it was purely an accident.

     Molli’s injury list goes on and on.

     “I broke every bone in my face,” she said. “Anything that had to do with my face was broken.”

     In addition, she fractured her ulna (a bone in the forearm), had her teeth knocked out, part of her jaw was broken, and more.

     The impact also caused Molli to elbow Brandon in the head, rendering him unconscious.

     “That was my bad,” she joked.

     Molli is still undergoing multiple surgeries on her facial area. In fact, today, May 17, she goes in for a bone graft.

     “They’ll be taking part of my left hip and rebuilding my upper and lower jaw line,” she explained.

     In July, Molli will go back for another surgery on her eye. When she’s recovered from that, Molli will have plastic surgery to finish the work on her face, as well as her nose.

     “My nose was built out of my skull,” she said. Hope acknowledged that her mother’s nose is “definitely not her nose,” noting how Molli looked before the accident. Brandon said his wife had 12 titanium plates put into her face.

     Despite all of her injuries, Molli was the only one conscious at the scene.

     Brandon suffered from broken ribs, a broken sternum, a broken nose, a broken shoulder blade, and a broken skull. He had to undergo physical therapy before being allowed to return to work.

     As for Diamond and Donald’s injuries, Brandon said they do not know the extent of what happened.

     “We could have found out,” he shared, “but we don’t want to.”

     The very next day following the accident, Molli and Brandon and Hope were all reunited in Iowa City. Due to Molli’s massive list of injuries, her two younger children’s bodies were brought to the UIHC where the family could say their good-byes.

     “That was the first time they had ever done something like that,” said Brandon of the gesture.

     Molli remained in the UIHC for about a month until she came home. Hope returned home just a few days after winter break ended. Despite Brandon being released as well, he spent 24/7 in Iowa City with Molli. His niece moved into their home to help take care of Hope.

     “It was a huge readjustment,” Brandon said of going from a family of five to a family of three. “It’s hard.”

     “It’s very quiet,” Molli said.

     Since the accident, people from all over the world have reached out to the Hunters. Someone in Las Vegas started a card flurry, where people shower a mourning family with cards.

     “We got thousands of cards,” said Molli. “We just stopped counting.”

     Brandon said they received cards filled with money and gift cards from Canada, England and Australia.

     “Some of them shared stories of similar situations,” said Molli. “There’s not much you can say except we’ve all been there. It was overwhelming.”

     Iron Workers Local 89 from Cedar Rapids initiated a Go Fund Me account for the family to help with medical and funeral expenses. Brandon said many union trades came together to offer their support and donations. He was finally able to go back to work on March 13.

     Some fundraisers for the Hunters were organized and held by family members and friends in Dubuque, where Brandon and Molli are originally from. They’ve also had several core friends who have stopped in on a regular basis.

     The Hunters held a Celebration of Life for Diamond and Donald on March 25 in Marion.

     “We were finally ready to share our grief,” said Brandon. The timing allowed Molli to heal a bit so she was able to attend the service. While the Hunters already said their good-byes earlier, Brandon explained the service “was more for everybody else.”

     “That was a bit emotional,” recalled Hope of saying her final good-byes to her sister and brother.

     Diamond and Donald’s memories still live on. Big Sister Hope said their rooms and belongings are still in place, the way they were before Dec. 18.

     “We haven’t moved any of their stuff,” she said. “On the shoe mat, Diamond’s shoes are still there.”

     To get away for some “R&R,” the family recently took a trip to Florida, something they had been planning for quite some time, even before the accident. Hope swam in the ocean; they ate what Molli referred to as some of the best seafood in the country, and went parasailing. They also enjoyed the trip with Diamond and Donald, having brought their urn with them.

     “We had been planning a family vacation for a year,” said Molli, “so we brought them with us.”

     As the family tries to move forward, tries to get back to some normalcy, they just ask the community for respect and privacy.

     “People mean well,” said Brandon. They did share some of the awful rumors that came out of the accident, some even sharing that Molli had died as well. “We’re just learning to adjust,” add Brandon. “We appreciate everybody’s support, but we just want to be left alone sometimes.”


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