Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Little girl's organs a gift to other kids after road tragedy

Grieving dad goes online to mourn his 'Star'

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It is being called her final gift to the world -- the donation of healthy organs that will save the lives of several sick children.

A Winnipeg father has documented the heartbreaking final days of his three-year-old daughter's life in a Minneapolis hospital following a post-Christmas crash in North Dakota.

"We don't want to have families go through our situation we are facing. This is what Evelyn would've wanted. She is the most loving and caring person I know," Ho Lau wrote this week in public posts at www.caringbridge.org that chronicled the tragedy.

"Her final gift to the world is her healthy organs. She will donate as many organs as she can to help as many families as she can."

Lau's last of five online journals was written early on Jan. 1, where he noted they were "waiting to say our last goodbyes."

"Evelyn always had an ability to light up a room, as many would agree. Her smile was model-calibre and her tiny voice and all their funny inflections could melt anyone," Lau wrote in that post. "Her light wasn't allowed to shine as bright on Earth, but her light will forever shine down as a Star."

'I hope all my friends and family take the time to hold their children or their loved ones and let them know they are loved'

-Ho Lau

Family friends have confirmed to the Free Press Evelyn was declared dead later that day.

"I hope all my friends and family take the time to hold their children or their loved ones and let them know they are loved," Lau concluded in that Jan. 1 post.

He had been at his daughter's bedside since they were airlifted from the highway crash site near Drayton, N.D., on Dec. 28. His wife, Allison, was seriously injured and taken to a Grand Forks hospital. In his journal, Lau says he was frequently communicating with her via online video about their daughter's grim situation.

Allison was transferred to Minneapolis on New Year's Eve and saw Evelyn before she died, friends say.

A family friend, Karla Mackenzie, 33, was also killed in the crash. Her three-year-old daughter, Sophie, is in critical condition in the same Minnesota hospital. Her husband, Steve Conner, suffered minor injuries.

The two families were headed to Minneapolis, planning to visit museums, a water park and the Mall of America.

The Lau family was travelling separately in their own vehicle when a semi-trailer truck rear-ended them shortly after they crossed into the United States at Emerson.

At the time, there was a brutal snowstorm that greatly reduced visibility, prompting authorities to advise against travel.

The family escaped injury in that crash but their vehicle was badly damaged. In Pembina, N.D., Ho Lau hitched a ride and his wife and daughter jumped in the vehicle with Steve Conner, his wife and daughter.

The plan was to continue on to Grand Forks, stop at a hotel and wait out the storm. Lau arrived as planned ,but the others never made it.

The Conner SUV, now with five occupants, was rear-ended by a semi on Interstate 29 near Drayton, N.D. Only the semi's driver escaped injury.

Deputy Marcus Ramsay of the Pembina County Sheriff's Department told the Free Press the investigation is in the early stages and no charges have been laid.

He said it appears the SUV had slowed or perhaps stopped on the highway when the semi rear-ended it.

In his online journal, Lau said he was waiting for hours for his family and friends to arrive at the Grand Forks hotel.

"Minutes turned to hours and the unthinkable began to race in my mind. The unthinkable became reality as I received a call from the ER," he wrote.

The Lau family is well-known in Winnipeg's martial arts community, which is reeling at news of the tragedy.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I must inform you that Ho and Allison Lau's three-year-old daughter, Evelyn, succumbed to her injuries on New Year's Day from a fatal motor vehicle accident that occurred on Saturday, December 28," longtime family friend and karate instructor Phil Harris wrote Friday on the heijoshinkarate.com website.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2014 A4

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