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Pippi Mayfield, Published January 10 2009

Benefit to help Detroit Lakes parents who lost child

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Tonya Azure says she simply wishes she could have met Blake and Connie Fingalson in another way.

Unfortunately, the White Earth woman met the Detroit Lakes couple for the first time Nov. 28 at a candlelight vigil where they said goodbye to their 22-month-old daughter, Abigail, who died two weeks earlier after an accident involving cars driven by Blake Fingalson and Azure.

“I met the Fingalsons at the accident site on the day of their daughter’s funeral,” Azure said. “It was very emotional for everyone. I just wish we could have met under different circumstances.”

Abigail was fatally injured Nov. 14 on Becker County Road 21, about seven miles north of Detroit Lakes, when Blake Fingalson lost control of his southbound car on the icy road. His car crossed the center line and struck Azure’s northbound car.

Since the accident, both families have been on a difficult and painful road to recovery.

In the accident, Blake Fingalson broke his ankle, punctured a hole in his knee and tore the muscles around his ribs.

Connie broke her ankle, heel and femur. She is in a wheelchair and likely will be for six more months before going through therapy and walking again.

In the other car, Azure broke her foot, ankle and arm, and her hip was dislocated. Also, her daughter, Aimee Azure, suffered a knee injury, and her niece, Tierra Villebrun, sustained head and back injuries.

The Azures’ dog, riding in the car on the way back from a veterinarian visit, was killed.

Neither the Fingalsons nor Azure has been back to work since the accident.

One day at a time

“I am healing one day at time, but the healing is taking a long time,” Azure said, adding that her daughter is healing well, but her niece is having more difficulties due to her head injury. All are having nightmares, she said.

“We were scared and in shock. My niece was unconscious. I called her name; she opened her eyes and started crying. I was so helpless and couldn’t get to her,” Azure said. “My daughter managed to get out on her own, and she said she was going to get help since we couldn’t find our cell phone.

“That accident has changed our lives forever. I still think about it every day. I get so emotional and stressed by thinking about it. I keep thinking about Abby Fingalson and I wish that we weren’t on the road at that time. It’s so hard to forget that day; it’s always stuck in my head.”

Azure said she is now afraid to drive, or even ride in a vehicle, for fear of getting into another accident.

“When I go through the accident site, I get so emotional and think about what happened, my dog, and the little girl and her parents,” Azure said.

Financial distress

The Fingalsons have been slowly dealing with the physical and psychological aftermath of the accident as well.

Because they haven’t been back to work, and have been continually doctoring, their bills are mounting.

“Some you just throw down and laugh,” Connie said of the large bills.

However, they said one highlight has been their decision to donate their daughter’s organs, which helped several people, including a 68-year-old, 27-year-old and 20-month-old.

The couple has received some financial help thanks to a benefit that was hosted for them late last year, and a longtime friend is hosting another benefit today.

Mel Manning, who married the Fingalsons in August and is the founder of The Refuge, a Christian outreach center, has organized a benefit to include dinner, music and a pie auction from 5 to 7 tonight at the center, 921 S.E. 8th St. in Detroit Lakes. For more information, call (218) 847-1982.

“Neither are able to work right now and there’s so much expense,” he said.


If you go

- What: Benefit for Blake and Connie Fingalson

- When: 5 to 7 tonight

- Where: 921 S.E. 8th St., Detroit Lakes, Minn.

- For more information: Call (218) 847-1982.