Amy Simonis doesn’t want people to leave flowers at the site of a head-on wreck that killed two of her children.
“It makes everybody think of the crash and not the kids,” Simonis said.
Instead, she wants people to continue building a makeshift memorial for her children at Central Linn High School in Halsey. And she wants people to remember Caleb Simonis, 19, and Shelby Simonis, 16, as compassionate and helpful teens who loved animals.
The teens died because a man who was allegedly driving drunk crashed into their vehicle.
Their younger sister Kylee Simonis, 15, also was seriously injured in the crash, which occurred about four miles east of Brownsville on Highway 228 early Saturday morning.
The teens all lived in Sweet Home, but Shelby was a junior at Central Linn and Kylee is a freshman. The trio was out late at night because they were bringing an injured dog to the Brownsville Animal Clinic, which their mother owns.
“I was actually right behind them. I came upon the crash right after it happened,” Amy Simonis said.
On Thursday, Kylee was recovering at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield. “She’s still in the ICU, but she might be moving to pediatrics soon. She’s a fighter. She’s strong-willed,” Amy Simonis said. “That’s what’s keeping her going through all of this, is her strong makeup.”
Caleb Simonis could be described as the quiet one of the family, but he was highly intelligent, his mother said.
He graduated from Sweet Home High School in 2018, and he was involved in 4-H and the Boy Scouts as a youth. He was attending Linn-Benton Community College and taking automotive mechanics courses. Caleb Simonis initially wanted to study marine biology, but figured out that he loved fixing things.
“He likes to work on vehicles. He had a Jeep, and he always liked working on it. He liked four-wheeling. … He liked fishing,” Amy Simonis said.
He also was protective of his sisters and helped them out with showing animals.
Caleb Simonis’ German shorthair pointer, Macey, is pregnant and due to have a litter of puppies within the next week.
His sister Shelby was matter-of-fact but thought things through, and she was the leader of the family in many ways, Amy Simonis said. “She always had a good answer. You could ask her anything. She always knew where everything was,” she added.
And Shelby always had plenty of friends, in part because she looked out for underdogs.
She was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA and showed cows and mules and had started showing lambs this year. A friend of Shelby’s has taken charge of the lambs and will take one of the critters to the Linn County 4-H and FFA Livestock Auction, which is usually held during the Linn County Fair. Kylee also plans to have a steer at the auction this year, as well.
Shelby hoped to become a large animal veterinarian when she grew up, her mother said.
“I could be dealing with the grossest thing at the clinic, and she’d be willing to jump right in and help,” Amy Simonis added.
Shelby had two dogs, a poodle named Cinder and a German shorthair named Captain.
Amy Simonis said that the death of her children has taken a tremendous toll on her, and she’s frustrated.
“It was a tragedy, but it never should have happened. If people would just think before they got behind the wheel, then this never would have happened,” she said.
The man who allegedly killed Caleb and Shelby Simonis, Austyn Wayne Hillsman, 21, of Woodland, Washington, has been charged with two counts of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants and refusal to take a test for intoxicants.
Hillsman’s bail was set at $500,000 during a hearing on Tuesday, and his next court appearance is scheduled for June 8.
Kyle Odegard can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or email@example.com.