Life can change in an instant, Craig family hopes story will encourage caution on the roads
CRAIG — The mood of the six people headed to Steamboat Springs was joyful. Brandi Shipman was driving with her husband, Troy Henderson, and son, Corban Shipman, in the front seat next to her. Three other passengers were seated in the back.
It was the afternoon of Aug. 5. Brandi was driving through intermittent rain showers along a road she knows well.
She was in the process of passing a slower vehicle when her truck hit a pool of water and hydroplaned off the road.
“I caught traffic and thought it would be OK to pass. Troy said to go for it,” she recalled.
Witness statements taken for the investigation noted that she didn’t pass at an unsafe speed and she didn’t appear to be driving unsafely. There were no drugs or alcohol in her system. The truck was a four-wheel drive 2016 Dodge Ram 1500.
“It spun around really fast. I gripped the wheel hard and closed my eyes. I didn’t think about who wasn’t buckled in,” she said.
Henderson and Corban weren’t buckled in, and that would prove a fatal choice for Corban and a life-altering tragedy for everyone in the truck that day.
“I was a dumbass. I do it (buckle up) at times, and at times, I don’t. And Corban too, I always tell Corban to wear one,” Henderson said.
The only passengers sustaining serious injuries — Corban and Henderson — were not wearing seat belts.
“I’ve always been a stickler. I couldn’t tell you why I wasn’t that day,” Brandi said.
Henderson said he remembers going through the windshield.
“The truck flipped two and a half times. Corban went out the windshield first; he landed behind the truck. I landed in front. It sucked my shoes off my feet,” Henderson said.
They were in Routt County when the accident occurred, and West Routt Emergency Medical Services responded.
Later, they would learn that Corban had been internally decapitated with brain bleeds and swelling.
“He lost consciousness and never regained it,” Brandi said.
She had to make a painful decision to remove her son from life support and faced the realization she would be charged in his death.
“He turned 20 two days prior to the wreck and 5 days before he passed. He wanted to eat at Moe’s,” she said.
The helicopter that took Corban to Grand Junction couldn’t transport Henderson due to the weather, so he went to Salt Lake City and faced his first surgery — 12 hours to reconstruct his leg — and those initial days alone.
After complications from infection, Henderson was cleared to start weight-bearing physical therapy in January, but he won’t be cleared for work until April, and maybe longer.
The other passengers sustained only minor injuries.
Facing the consequences
Brandi was initially charged with misdemeanors, including three counts of careless driving causing bodily injury, one count of careless driving causing death and two charges of failure to wear seat belts.
She pled guilty to one count of careless driving causing serious bodily injury, a misdemeanor, in part to avoid thousands of dollars in legal costs associated with a jury trial.
She will serve one year of unsupervised probation, perform 100 hours of community service and live a lifetime without her son.
“I’m just a mom who had everyone I hold dearest to my heart in the vehicle with me, on our way to celebrate my son’s 20th birthday party, a trip my son would never come back home from,” Brandi said.
Physical, emotional and legal consequences have been exacerbated by financial stress. They’ve had to adjust to one income and pay off the wrecked truck, but they haven’t had to do it alone, and for that, they are grateful.
“You don’t want to go through this; there’s a lot of pain and suffering in this,” Brandi said.
Learning to live with loss
Brandi describes Corban as a good kid, laid back, a momma’s boy.
“He would always listen to me. He had a good work ethic. He wanted to live life — get out of here, get his own place, freedom and responsibility,” Brandi said.
Some of those closest to Corban declined to be interviewed for this story, but Brandi and Henderson wanted to tell their story to make a difference and to acknowledge a community that helped them to heal.
“When you pass people on the road, no matter what conditions, you are putting everyone’s life in your hands. You have to be careful and patient on the road,” Brandi said.
Complacency, Henderson believes, was behind every small choice he made that day.
“Don’t let your standards down. Everyone gets in a hurry and complacent. And I’m guilty, too. Keep your standards. Don’t get complacent,” he urged.
They both pray more and find they are more connected to the community around them.
“It’s opened me up to people again. Before, it was our family and us. I thought the world was going to hell. I thought I had no friends and no one there for me. The world has opened up, and people are a lot more kind,” Henderson said.
The community came to their aid soon after the accident, and now, the community is stepping up again.
A fundraiser — benefit and silent auction, and a one in 50 chance to win a Harley Davison motorcycle — is scheduled for 7 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Thunder Rolls Bowling Center.
“We want to thank Jamie and RaChell Dschaak, Robbie Frentress of Northwest Colorado Health, the businesses, family and friends and so many people who have helped us, who went way out of their way to help us,” Henderson said. “We’d appreciate the support of any other businesses that might want to donate something for the event.”
They are building a future far different than the one they’d imagined.
“I want to get out there and show more love to people. I want to tell people having hard times it will be OK, and it will all iron out. And, pay the kindness forward. I want to love people even harder,” Brandi said.
She knows life can change in an instant.
“It can happen to anybody. Never take tomorrow for granted. You might not have a tomorrow,” she said. “Also, physically check, to make sure people are buckled in.”
To help the family, visit youcaring.com/shipmanhendersonfamily-1076813.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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