By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A month after losing her son to a car crash, Cheri Turner said dealing with his death is not getting any easier.
"It doesn't get any easier," she said Wednesday, one day after the one-month anniversary of Travis Turner's death. "You wait for a phone call or you wait for him to come through the door. But you know he won't."
"You do the best as you can. I guess you just have to realize that he's not coming back," said Kim Turner, 18, Travis' sister. You just try to appreciate all the time you did have with him."
Travis Turner, 20, and Whitney Schwan, 16, died after suffering injuries in a one-car rollover shortly before midnight June 19 while they were driving north on Highway 234, coming back to Havre from Beaver Creek Park. The Montana Highway Patrol reported speed and alcohol were factors in the crash.
Travis and Whitney were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the 1995 Dodge Stratus after Travis, who was driving, lost control on a left-hand turn, over-corrected and went into the ditch on the west side of the highway and the car rolled.
Anthony Bonavita, 18, was a passenger in the car. Anthony, who was wearing a seat belt, was injured in the crash, including suffering a dislocated shoulder.
At the request of Kim Turner, Havreites had a reminder of the crash - and the need to be safe - this week.
Judi Gomke, who owns and operates Mel's Foods in Havre, put a message on the store's marquis on Tuesday and Wednesday, the anniversary of Travis' and Whitney's deaths: "Have fun; buckle up. Love, Travis and Whitney."
"It was really hard for me to do. I didn't want to shock people," she said. "Kim wanted to make a statement: that they didn't die uselessly."
Patti Schwan, Whitney's mother, said this morning that when Kim asked if they approved of the sign, they agreed.
"We said, sure. We thought it was great. Anything to help anyone else from getting hurt," Patti said.
Friends of Whitney, including her school mates and team mates from her activities, including softball and cheerleading, memorialized her including putting a sign up on the Sixth Avenue Ballpark.
Patti Schwan said people are still coming to visit, mostly family but some friends of Whitney are also stopping by.
Cheri said that has been the main support for her family as well, people visiting, sending food the week of the accident, sending cards.
"A lot of people have been coming over," Kim said.
Kim said that Travis had made plans for the next few years, including moving to Billings to learn more about fixing cars, then moving to Las Vegas with his brother, Ryan Turner, 25, who planned to graduate from Montana State University-Northern next spring.
Kim said Travis, Whitney and Anthony had spent most of the evening of June 19 with her where she was camping with friends in Beaver Creek Park. She said she doesn't think alcohol had much to do with the accident. The three couldn't have had more than two or three beers each that night, she said, and doubts it would have affected Travis' driving much, even though he was also taking anti-depressants.
"Travis really liked to drive fast," she said.
Cheri agreed. She said she doesn't know what the level of alcohol in Travis' blood was that night, but she doubts it was very high.
Patti Schwan said she saw the blood report on Whitney briefly in Great Falls. She had some alcohol in her blood, but a very low level, Patti said.
"The nurse said it hardly registered," she added.
The loss has impacted the family hard.
"We did everything together," she said. "We went as a family to the mud runs and racing and everything."
Kim said the family traveled to watch all of the races Travis competed in - he started racing motorcycles when he was about 10, she said, then moved up to cars, competing in races, mud runs, and demolition derbies.
Travis already had a car to prepare for the derby at the Great Northern Fair this year, she added.
"Bikes was his biggest thing," she said.
He especially enjoyed spending time with his brother Justin's children, his 3-year-old niece Kahlan and 2-year-old nephew Brandon.
She said Travis seemed to enjoy getting into minor trouble - he thought it was fun.
But, she said, he still should have been careful.
"Wear your seat belt and play it safe," Kim said. "You can have fun and wear your seat belt, too."