Speaking out for the first time

At college’s remembrance, mother talks of grief, anger

Susan Giffin, the mom of Samantha Loy, smiles as she talks about Samantha during the Associated Student Government of Mesa State College host its second annual Remembrance in recognition of students who have lost their lives in recent years. A balloon release and a candlelght vigil were part of the service

The mother of an 18-year-old Mesa State College student who was killed in a drunken-driving crash spoke publicly for the first time Saturday night at a remembrance for students who had died in recent years.

Samantha Loy had moved out of her mother’s house three months before her death.

“It hasn’t even hit me that she’s gone. It’s something that I’ll never get over,” said Sue Giffin, Samantha’s mom.

Giffin had just seen Samantha, who came by the house and showed her pictures from her cell phone of her new furniture at the apartment she just moved into. Then she went out with friends to Rooster’s restaurant and never got the chance to come home again.

“There’s not much you can do. You can tell kids to put their seat belts on. You can tell kids not to drink and drive, but I did it, too,” Giffin said.

She said she struggles to understand how a Fruita police officer who pulled the teen over a half-hour before the crash was unable to detect that Samantha had been drinking, and she is hurt that she was not called to the scene of the accident. She said she had to wait four days after the accident to see her daughter’s body, after the autopsy had been performed.

She would like to see the laws changed to be more sensitive to families in these circumstances.

If she had known her daughter had been driving drunk previously, she would have taken the keys, and the car, she said.

More than 400 people attended Samantha’s funeral, Giffin said, adding she was amazed her daughter had made such an impact on others.

“She’s touched so many people’s hearts, and I always thought of her as an angel, and apparently a lot of other people did,” Giffin said.

The Associated Student Government of Mesa State College hosted the second annual remembrance event in honor of Loy, Jennifer Kois, Jake Brock, Christine Sterling-Soffel and Heather Jay. They planted a remembrance tree, which will never produce fruit, on campus two years ago.

Jay died Nov. 13 when she rolled her car. She had not been drinking but was not wearing her seat belt. She will receive an honorary degree from the kinesiology department this May, when she would have graduated.

Her kinesiology professor, Sue Yeager, spoke about Jay. She always sat at the front of her class, smiling.

“Heather was always a favorite of mine because of that,” Yeager said. “Even though she left us early, she left her mark.”

Kois, who died with her boyfriend Brock two years ago when they were hit by a drunken driver, was remembered by her stepfather, Peter Vonfeldt, and best friend, Danny McMahon.

Vonfeldt spoke out against drunk drivers, saying, “It’s time we stop the madness. Stop breaking everyone’s heart.”

He will participate in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving walk in the summer, on “Team Bright Eyes,” named after the bright blue eyes of Kois.

McMahon had been best friends with Kois for more than 12 years, and it’s still hard to go on without her.

“It’s amazing how someone who isn’t there can still make such an impact on people’s lives,” he said.

Sterling-Soffel died in January 2008 when she was struck by a car on Interstate 70 as she tried to cross the road to help a driver who had crashed.


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