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Survivor of tragic Memorial Day crash holds vigil

Rita Seha visits the site along U.S. 63 where her fiance, children and friend were killed by a drunk driver five years ago Friday. Seha planned a vigil at the site. Seha had been traveling in a van with her fiance, Terry Millholand, her daughter, Heidi Newell, grandson, Carter Newell, infant son, Raymond Millholand, and friend Jarah Beers. Seha was the only survivor.

It was a sunny Memorial Day weekend much like this one in 2009, when a drunken driver crashed into Rita Seha's van and killed five of her loved ones.

As trucks and cars roared by on Friday afternoon, Seha, of Rochester, set up five crosses at the intersection of Minnesota Highway 30 and U.S. 63 at the location of the 2009 crash, in which a pickup driven by Christopher Frisch crossed the highway and collided with her van.

While she survived, the crash killed Seha's fiance, Terry Milholland, 45; their infant son, Raymond Milholland; Seha's 19-year-old daughter, Heidi Newell; Seha's 2-year-old grandson, Carter Newell; and longtime family friend Jarah Beers, 23.

They had spent the day fishing in Albert Lea and at a Memorial Day picnic. They were headed back home to Rochester, when Frisch fell asleep while driving on Highway 30 and hit them as they drove on U.S. 63. His blood-alcohol concentration was 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

"A day doesn't go by that I don't remember them and cry for them," Seha said. "That moment changed my life that day. It's a lonely life."


She wants her family's crosses to do more than just memorialize them. She wants the crosses to remind people of what being irresponsible while driving can cost them and others.

Since that day, her message has been that people need to be aware of the tragic consequences of a bad decision behind the wheel. She tows the remains of the van to area high schools and tells her story to the students.

Seha feels that what she's saying is reaching people. Many students have come up to her months later and have told her that her talk made a difference.

"It's not just drinking and driving. Texting. Talking on a cellphone. Anything," she said. "People need to remember that putting a key in the ignition of a car is like loading a gun that could go off at any time."

Part of her journey since that Memorial Day has been forgiving Frisch, who is serving a five-year prison sentence. She has gotten to know him, and they plan to speak together after he is released next April.

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