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Abby's Angels remembers girl killed by distracted driver

7:12 AM, Feb 22, 2014   |    comments
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(WXIA) -- Three days before Christmas, Stephen and Natalie Bacho were in their minivan with their three little girls and their grandfather. They were about to cross an intersection they drove through every day. Thirteen months after that night,  their life is nothing like it was. 

What they lost that night is felt with the stringing of every bead. And no matter what they do -- no matter how hard they pray -- they will never get that life back.  

"She just had so much life and energy within her she couldn't contain it sometimes. It just overflowed," Natalie said of her daughter.   

Nine-year-old Abby was the middle child.  She was happily sandwiched between little sister Charlotte and big sister Hannah. She was outgoing, vivacious and silly.  

Three days before Christmas, Abby was in the third row of the minivan. She was behind her mother, who was driving. Natalie never drove but she knew the way to the Christmas lighthouse. Stephen was behind Natalie.    

Nineteen-year-old year old Taylor Long had never met the Bachos, but in the small town of Newnan it is possible that their paths had crossed on these streets. On this night, they collided.  

"We had the green light and I proceeded through the intersection and the next thing I remember is that we just out of nowhere, hit on my side of the van and it sent us into a spin," Natalie said.     

Everyone was hurt. Natalie's father. Natalie.  

"I just remember turning behind me to check on everyone," Natalie said. "Charlotte was slumped over unconscious and I turned to Steve to tell him to grab Charlotte and he couldn't answer me."

Abby was flown to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.  Stephen was flown to Atlanta Medical Center. Charlotte had a concussion. Hannah had a fractured pelvis. Stephen was so badly injured, he was not expected to survive. After an emergency surgery, he was placed in a medically induced coma, his only hope. And sweet Abby was hurt the worst of all.   Doctors told Natalie that Abby was brain dead. She stayed with her.  

"I could lay with her. I could hug her. I could tell her how much we loved her. And I could sing to her, Jesus loves me. And I had that time that so many parents don't have when they can't tell their children goodbye."    

On Christmas Day, Abby was removed from life support and her organs were donated. One month later, Stephen Bacho was brought out of his coma.  

"I did not know where I was, why I was there," he said.     

Natalie told him, "I just remember telling him what had happened in the accident and you asked if everyone was okay and I said that Abby had an injury that Abby wasn't able to recover from and that we lost her, but she was able to give life."

Stephen watched his daughter's funeral on DVD.  

Taylor Long was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. The investigation into the accident showed he was on his cell phone when he ran that red light. In a plea deal he was sentenced to six months jailed work release. Part of his sentence was taking part in a PSA about distracted driving.  

"I just had this overwhelming feeling that something better had to come of this and her life couldn't end at nine," Natalie said.     

Abby's Angels Foundation is helping other children -- the money made from bracelets buys school supplies for kids at four elementary schools in Newnan, including at Newnan Crossing, where Abby was a fourth grader. Abby's Closet is for needy students who can discreetly shop for things they'd otherwise never have.    

LEARN how you can help with Abby's Angels

"I feel Abby in every closet that we do. It reflects her and her spirit and her personality," her mother said.     

The foundation is working on programs for children who've lost siblings and for families who've donated their child's organs. 

Abby's spirit lives on -- in every child who receives shiny new pencil cases and book bags, in every person who wears her bracelets and takes pictures of them around the world -- in the tree planted for her outside her school.  Most of all, Abby lives on in the hearts of everyone who loved her so.  One bead at a time, her life goes on. 

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