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Young Family’s Return Home Turns Into Tragedy

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Nick Janes Nick Janes
Nick Janes joined KOVR/KMAX in December 2008 as a reporter. Nick...
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ROCKLIN (CBS13) – A young family should have arrived in their hometown Sacramento last week. Instead, hundreds of family and friends who would have served as the welcoming party gathered Monday to say goodbye.

Christopher and Diana Schmidt and their two young boys were traveling cross country from the Washington, D.C. area when the fatal accident happened in the western Nebraska town of Sidney along Interstate 80.

“The road to healing a broken heart will be a long road,” said Diana’s father, Brad Baumann during the service Monday at Bridgeway Christian Church in Rocklin.

For family here, the pain is indescribable. The tragedy seems impossibly unfair.

“I’ve known Diana since we were younger and all throughout she wanted to be like her mother, Nancy,” a crying friend said during the service.

Samuel, 3, and Connor, 2 – “Sam-Sam and Con-Man” – were the center of Christopher and Diana’s lives.

Diana, 28, was also seven months pregnant with a third son who would have been named Ethan.

“She is my best friend and she … I don’t know life without her, and it’s going to be hard to figure that out,” said Diana’s sister, Monica Ebersole.

Moving back to the Sacramento area, the Schmidts were driving two cars and were stopped in traffic after another accident early on the morning of Sept. 9 when a big rig driver rear-ended Chris’ 2010 Ford Mustang, which then slammed into his wife’s 2007 Corolla. Family members say they all died instantly in the fiery crash.

The driver of the big rig, Josef Slezak, 25, was charged with four counts of homicide and four counts of vehicular manslaughter.

“Senseless, stupid, just because someone didn’t want to listen to his CB radio and slow down,” said Chris’ mother, Donna Costley.

Barely hidden beneath that anger, Chris’ mother feels complete devastation.

“I kept saying ‘Chris is dead? Chris is dead?’ and she goes ‘Yes.’ And I looked at her and I said ‘At least we have Diana and the babies.’ And she goes, ‘No, they’re all gone,'” Donna said of learning the news.

“So that was the worst night of my life.”

Chris, 30, who’d been in the Air Force for 10 years, had recently accepted a job with the Social Security Administration in Sacramento after working for the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington. Diana was a vet technician who loved animals.

The future family of five’s happy homecoming was cut short in an instant.

“The road to no more tears will be a long road,” Baumann said.

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