A Christmas trip to visit family Up North ended in a crash that left a family of four dead.
Killed in the collision of two SUVs on Saturday afternoon on a snowpacked central Minnesota highway were Chris Moe, 45, who was driving; his wife, Rae Anne, 40; and their children, Samantha, 14, and Anthony, 12, according to the State Patrol.
The family lived in Columbia Heights, and the two children attended Columbia Academy.
On Sunday, friends stood outside the family's home near Central Avenue, about 90 minutes south of the crash site on Hwy. 65, shocked to realize the news they'd heard was true.
"The whole entire family in that house is gone. Nothing is left," said Joan Osby, a Columbia Heights mother whose eighth-grade son, Christopher, was close friends with Samantha. "I can't believe it, as a parent. When Chris called me, I was in shock. I was like, 'No, this is not true.' "
The crash happened about 3 p.m. on Hwy. 65, south of Hwy. 18, near McGrath and east of Lake Mille Lacs, the patrol said. Chris Moe lost control of his Mazda SUV on the road, sliding sideways into the northbound lane and colliding with the much larger Chevrolet Suburban heading the other way, said Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson.
Five people in the Suburban, all from nearby McGregor, survived. They were driver Sarah E. Sample, 22; her son, Jackson Sample, 2; Amanda R. Christiansen, 21; Nicholas J. Meyer, 26, and Kevin P. Meyer, 25.
The Samples, Christiansen and Nicholas Meyer were taken to FirstLight Hospital in Mora, Minn. The adults at the Mora hospital had serious injuries while the 2-year-old was unharmed, the patrol said. Kevin Meyer was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, also with serious injuries.
There were scores of crashes and spinouts Saturday across the state, where 1 to 6 inches of snow fell.
"I knew the whole family," said Michael Dmytruk, who's been Chris Moe's best friend since they attended Holy Cross Catholic Church in northeast Minneapolis as fourth-graders.
Dmytruk said the Moes had driven to Hill City, south of Grand Rapids, for Christmas with Rae Anne's family and were returning home when the crash occurred a little shy of halfway into their 150-mile drive back.
The Moes both worked as medical assistants, and Samantha was planning to study for a job in health care someday.
Christopher Osby, 13, who met Samantha in the fifth grade when the two were crossing guards together, said his close friend was a big fan of the rock band Evanescence and the video game Minecraft. He, too, said Samantha had talked about pursuing a medical career.
"She was really friendly and happy. Nice, and awkward," he said after leaving flowers at the Moe home with his mom and a group of friends. "She could tell me anything."
Neighbors described the parents, who were relatively new to the neighborhood, as friendly and helpful. Two people said they knew Chris and Rae Anne from an incident when a tree blew over in a storm.
"The first time I met them was this summer. The neighbor's tree fell on our house, and they came over and helped clean it up," said Mary Lou Langenberger, who lives across the street from the Moes.
Dmytruk said his longtime friend "went to church every week and even taught the kids catechism" at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in northeast Minneapolis.
"Chris was just a big God guy," he said. "That's what's so hard for me."
Rae Anne Moe, Dmytruk added, was "the typical old-fashioned housewife, good at being a mom, very family oriented."
Dmytruk said Rae Anne had just landed a full-time job, and that Chris' job prospects were improving as well. Neighbors said the family had a graduation party for Chris this summer, after he finished his medical training.
"Friday they told me this was the first time they were getting ahead on things," Dmytruk said.
A memorial fund has been established for survivors to meet funeral expenses. Donations can be accepted at any TCF Bank branch or by searching "MoeFamily" at Gofundme.com.