Kamryn Simmons Obituary

Simmons family finding purpose building lost siblings’ legacies: ‘They are worth remembering’

Lindy, Christopher and Kamryn Simmons were killed in a drunken driving crash on Dec. 17.

Katie Gagliano

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Dawn Simmons, left, and her daughter Katie DeRouen discuss their memorial project. The two were at DeRouen’s home in Iberia Parish Friday, October 28, 2022.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Katie DeRouen, left, and her mother Dawn Simmons at the gravesite of Kamryn, Christopher and Lindy Simmons Friday, October 28, 2022 in Beau Pre Cemetery in Jeanerette, La.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Katie DeRouen, left, and her mother Dawn Simmons at the gravesite of Kamryn, Christopher and Lindy Simmons Friday, October 28, 2022 in Beau Pre Cemetery in Jeanerette, La.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Lindy, from left, Christopher and Kamryn Simmons. Reflected on the framed photo is their mother Dawn Simmons. In Katie DeRouen’s home in Iberia Parish on Friday, October 28, 2022.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Katie DeRouen at her home in Iberia Parish on Friday, October 22, 2022.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Dawn Simmons in daughter Katie DeRouen’s home in Iberia Parish on Friday, October 28, 2022.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Katie DeRouen, left, and her mother Dawn Simmons discuss their memorial project. The two were at DeRouen’s home in Iberia Parish Friday, October 28, 2022.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Katie DeRouen, left, and her mother Dawn Simmons at the gravesite of Kamryn, Christopher and Lindy Simmons Friday, October 28, 2022 in Beau Pre Cemetery in Jeanerette, La.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Katie DeRouen, left, and her mother Dawn Simmons at the gravesite of Kamryn, Christopher and Lindy Simmons Friday, October 28, 2022 in Beau Pre Cemetery in Jeanerette, La.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

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Katie DeRouen, left, and her mother Dawn Simmons at the gravesite of Kamryn, Christopher and Lindy Simmons Friday, October 28, 2022 in Beau Pre Cemetery in Jeanerette, La.

  • PHOTO BY LEE BALL

Twenty-year-old Lindy Simmons was eagerly awaiting a trip to New York City in early January.

Christopher Simmons, 17, was strategizing ways to reach his ACT goal score of 32.

Kamryn Simmons, 15, couldn’t wait to get her driver’s license in 41 days.

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Those plans and ambitions were cut short when the siblings — the three youngest in a family of nine children — were killed in a head-on collision with a drunken driver on Dec. 17.

The driver, 54-year-old John Lundy of Dallas, Georgia, had an alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he crashed into the family while driving the wrong way on Interstate 49, Louisiana State Police said.

Lundy and Lindy Simmons died at the scene. Christopher and Kamryn Simmons died at different area hospitals. The siblings’ mother, Dawn Simmons, and Christopher’s girlfriend, Marissa, both survived but suffered serious injuries and were hospitalized.

The 10 and a half months since have been filled with tears and hardship, but also a growing sense of purpose as the family looks for opportunities big and small to grow Lindy, Christopher and Kamryn’s legacies and raise awareness about the consequences of drunken driving, Dawn Simmons and their elder sister Katie DeRouen said.

‘Nothing in my life that’s untouched’

October has been a hard month for the Simmons family. Birthdays for Christopher and Lindy passed, on Oct. 18 and Oct. 24, respectively; Lindy and her mother share a birthday. Halloween is Kamryn’s favorite holiday.

But while the special moments are hard, it’s the everyday reminders of their absence that really cut deep. With three loved ones lost at the same time, the reminders are numerous, varied and frequent, the women said.

It’s seeing Kamryn’s favorite gummy bears while grocery shopping. It’s getting college recruitment mail for Christopher. It was getting flight notifications for Lindy’s canceled trip to New York. It’s the makeup bag with a lock DeRouen had bought Simmons for Christmas to safeguard her cosmetics against her two youngest daughters’ frequent borrowing, they said.

It’s watching their Acadiana Christian School classmates celebrate milestones without them.

It was taking a family trip to Austin, Texas, to visit family, and absorbing how quiet the drive was without two or more of the missing siblings chatting in the back of their SUV with DeRouen’s 13-year-old daughter, Amielle.

“Their absence. ” Simmons said.

“It was so loud,” DeRouen finished.

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For Simmons, the emotional healing has been more difficult than her physical recovery.

She suffered a punctured lung, two broken ankles, fractures in her legs, a lacerated carotid artery, broken wrists, fractured ribs, a fractured sternum and damage to her spleen.

“When I came home from the hospital, when I tell you, I was so broken, physically, emotionally, like I didn’t know — I just didn’t know how I was going to do it…It was the lowest point of my life,” Simmons said.

The longtime Jeanerette resident leaned on her Christian faith, especially videos from Dr. Mary Neal, an orthopedic spinal surgeon who drowned in the 1990s but was revived, to get through the worst days. Neal has written and spoken extensively on her after-death experience of Heaven and her faith journey. Simmons said she found solace in her videos.

“People say, ‘You’re so strong. You’re so strong,’ but I’m really not. It’s because when I’m weak, He is strong in me. That is the bottom line of how we make it through,” Simmons said.

DeRouen feels similarly emotionally battered.

The 32-year-old, the eldest Simmons daughter, stepped in as the family’s point person in the aftermath of the crash. She identified her siblings’ bodies, made funeral arrangements, chose their tombstones and the cemetery they’d be buried in, arranged for obituary writers, and made decisions on any and everything else that cropped up as her mother lay hospitalized with her father, Ray, at her side.

She took three months off from her job as an inpatient coding auditor for Christus Health to focus on family and her grief.

“There’s nothing in my life that’s untouched,” she said.

DeRouen also has moments where her grief surprises her.

When DeRouen found her brother at Bunkie General Hospital the night of the crash, Christopher was intubated because he had not been declared legally dead. The first time she saw an intubation listed on a coding sheet for work, it set her off, she said.

She felt similarly overwhelmed attending a recent engagement party at her brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s home, she said.

DeRouen was there for a Christmas party when her father called to tell her the crash had happened, setting off several agonizing hours of discovering her siblings were dead. Pulling up to the home, and seeing the dark driveway full of cars like it was that night, sent her into a panic, she said.

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DeRouen, who has two children and a stepson, also agonizes over how the loss is impacting them.

With their age difference, her youngest siblings were also like siblings to her 13-year-old and the four were very close. Lindy was her 2-year-old son Bregman’s godmother, and she and Kamryn spoiled the boy and watched him often, she said. Now he’ll never truly know who they were.

“My life since this is a whole different life,” DeRouen said.

Support from Acadiana Christian School and Our Savior’s Church, which operates the school, has been an anchor for the family, they said. Since the school opened over 30 years ago, each Simmons child has attended ACS for at least some of their schooling.

The shows of care have ranged from the large to the small. Examples include Principal Monique Sanchez guiding DeRouen through the funeral planning process, the school printing a memorial spread of the siblings in the 2021-2022 yearbook and retiring the number “11,” often worn by Simmons children, across all sports, they said.

“With the amount of loss that we endured, if we didn’t have support like that, I can’t even imagine getting up in the morning,” Simmons said.

A tight-knit bunch

The family’s youngest three children were a tight knit bunch, but for all the time they spent together each was unique.

Kamryn loved Hello Kitty, visiting the mountains and was developing a deep passion for traveling, the women said. She was a talented singer, but shy about performing in front of others, and Simmons said she pulled an ACS faculty member aside at a Christmas performance just before the crash and encouraged her to nudge Kamryn’s talents into the light.

The 15-year-old was “the kindest person I’ve ever known,” her mother said.

“She was just getting to the age where you begin to really kind of get an idea of who you’re becoming and what your talents are,” Simmons said.