3 deaths continue to haunt family 35 years later
Dago Cologne took a deep breath, reflecting on the nightmare he and his family experienced 35 years ago this week.
“You never get past it,” Cologne said. “You think about it all the time. It doesn’t pass.”
Wednesday marked the anniversary of the day the Des Allemands native and his wife, Genevieve, lost their daughter, Carolyn and grandchildren, Tatum and Kylie, in a horrific accident in Des Allemands. On Jan. 25, 1982, Carolyn, 28, was waiting for the school bus with her 5-year-old daughter, Tatum, and her 3-year-old niece, Kylie, near Carolyn’s home. That day, an 18-wheeler loaded with large pipes careened toward the bus and collided with part of the bus, overturning the truck.
Carolyn, Tatum and Kylie tried to rush back into their yard to avoid the danger, but could not avoid the truck or the pipes rolling toward them. All were killed nearly instantly.“11:05 in the morning,” Dago recalled. “It happened right there on Highway 90.”
“We think of how they would have grown up,” Genevieve said. “Every day, I think about it. They were precious girls. We love them and we miss them.”
Carolyn’s sister, Donna, witnessed the accident as it happened.
“(Carolyn) had just walked from her house,” Donna recalled. “We had just talked. Her little son, Roy, he was 11 months old. She was happy he had just started to walk … little Roy was with my sister Marilyn. Kylie wanted to stand out there with her nanny (Carolyn) and watch Tatum get in the bus.
They never went to the road until the bus actually stopped.
“That day, the bus stopped. I looked over to the left and saw it coming. I hollered, ‘The truck, the truck,”’… she tried to grab the two kids, but it was too late. The truck hit them …. It dragged her.”
She said it still haunts her to this day.
“It’s very sad when you go to a funeral, and there are three hearses and three caskets,” Donna said. “It was hard and still is. I pray about it. I can’t wait to see them again. I don’t have my closure with them yet.”
Dago recalled reaching the scene.
“I must have been about 800 feet from the house. All the traffic had stopped,” he said. “I just stopped my truck and left it right there. They were still on the ground … it happened right in front of the house.”
The family also cherishes memories of the happy times they spent with those loved ones. Donna said her sister was an inspiration to those around her, almost always cheerful and ready with a smile for anyone who came across her.
“She did things for everybody,” Donna said. “She was always happy, smiling all the time. Tatum, too.”
Dago smiled as he fondly recalled a time he shared with Tatum as he was building a home to move in next door to Carolyn. I put the sheetrock up … she had a little dog,” Dago said, warmly. “I come the next morning and open the door. The sheetrock is all messed up, the dog is trying to get out. I say, ‘Tatum, look what your dog did to paw paw’s sheetrock.
“And you know what she said? ‘That’s your problem,’” he added with a laugh. “I’ll never forget that.”
Dago said the family has found some solace in safety measures adopted later from their loss. He credited safety proponent Annabel Hogan for fighting for a sign to be posted near the accident site to warn pedestrians and bystanders along with measures requiring a school bus to pull off of a main road and onto its shoulder as children board the bus.
“100 percent,” Dago said. “(Hogan) was something and she deserves credit on that … it meant a lot. I think it saves the kids.”
He said it took him a long time to even be able to talk about the tragedy, noting about a year elapsed before he vented his feelings to a friend.
“I was an angry person,” Dago said. “I talked to nobody … once I let it out, I felt better. I’d held all of it in.”Carolyn left behind two other children at the time, 10-year-old Jessica and 11-month old Roy Jr. Dago. Genevieve raised each of them in her stead.
Sadly, the couple has lost another grandchild since then: David, who was just 21 years old, passed away two years ago in another vehicular accident.
“I always wonder, how many more grandchildren would we have today,” Dago said. “They were so young. We enjoyed the time we had with them, just wish we’d had more of it.”
But the couple still has plenty of love to give.
Dago, 84, and Genevieve, 82, have 11 living grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. Many of them are displayed on a collage they hang proudly at their home, one made by their granddaughter Nicole for the couple’s 64th wedding anniversary. Another grandchild, Heidi, the sister of Kylie, displayed a tattoo on her wrist that reads, “Always on my mind, forever in my heart.”
The tight-knit group helps one another through the pain.
“You might even forget your momma, your daddy, your sister or brother … you’re not ever gonna forget your kids,” Dago said. “I don’t care if it’s 100 years later. You’re still going to think about it. That’s for sure, if you have a heart.”
Genevieve added, “We know they’re up in heaven. And we’ll see them one day.”