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6- and 9-year-old sisters killed in crash

March 21, 2013 at 10 a.m.
Updated March 21, 2013 at 10:22 p.m.

Julie Steffek, 6, and Rebecca Steffek, 9, were killed in a one-vehicle crash on Alternate U.S. Highway 90 about 7:30 a.m. Thursday while  on their way to school at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hallettsville. Their mother, Michele Steffek, 45, had minor injuries.

Nine-year-old Rebecca Steffek carefully picked out her outfit for Silly Sock Day on Thursday at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hallettsville.

In the hectic rush to get ready for school, Rebecca decided to wear one blue- and yellow-striped sock and one pink- and yellow-striped sock.

Her mom, Michele Steffek, 45, also made muffins for Rebecca to take to a bake sale.

But the family never made it to school - not Rebecca with her silly socks and muffins and not Rebecca's 6-year-old sister, Julie.

"The car was flipped on its side; the 9-year-old was thrown out of the car. When the car stopped, I climbed out of my seat and climbed to the back. Julie was still in her seat belt, but she was already gone," Steffek said, describing the one-vehicle crash at 7:28 a.m. outside of Hallettsville.

"One of the school boys had pulled over, and he came up to me, and I said, 'I can't find Rebecca!' He said she was lying on the ground outside," Steffek remembered, still in shock by the death of both her baby girls.

She said both girls were wearing their seat belts.

"She (Rebecca) was breathing, but she never woke up. They had to bring her back several times. She did quit on them, and they brought her back," Steffek said.

Rebecca was taken by helicopter to Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin and was pronounced dead at the hospital, said Trooper Gerald Bryant of the Department of Public Safety.

Julie was transported by ambulance to Lavaca Medical Center Hospital in Hallettsville, where she was pronounced dead, Bryant said.

Steffek, a nurse, performed CPR on Julie at the scene.

Steffek was driving her new Nissan Pathfinder west on Alternate U.S. Highway 90, and the girls were watching the movie "We Bought a Zoo," which they liked because of all the animals.

Bryant said Steffek left the roadway and flipped the car on a concrete culvert. The crash is still under investigation.

"There was something in the road. I was adjusting the radio or something, and when I looked up, there was something in the road, and I swerved to miss it. Someone said it was a cow, but I don't know what it was," Steffek said.

She said the Pathfinder flipped at least four times. Steffek had minor injuries and was not transported.

Principal David Smolik at Sacred Heart Catholic School said they did not cancel classes Thursday, but had counselors, priests, nuns and teachers available to help students grieve.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragedy," Smolik said. "We all went to church and had a special rosary and prayer service for our two students who passed away and for their mother, for her recovery, for the father and for the entire family."

Rebecca wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, their mom said, and had all As on her report card. Both Rebecca and Julie loved to draw and fish with their dad, Ray Steffek.

Amy Shimek, a former child-care director at Sacred Heart Early Childhood Center, said she taught both girls since they were babies.

"I changed their diapers; I fed their bottles, and you aren't supposed to see them go that early," Shimek said, struggling against tears. Her daughters, about the same age and friends of the Steffek girls, heard the sirens Thursday morning.

"They were two wonderful little girls. My husband and I are thankful we were able to be part of their lives while they were here, even though they were short," Shimek said.

Steffek said the girls, babies of the family, were treasured by their older siblings, ages 14, 16, 25 and 27.

"Julie was my hyper one of the bunch. She was a little daredevil, whereas my 9-year-old was my level-headed one. They were complete opposites, but they were inseparable," Steffek said, adding the girls not only shared a room, but the same bed.

She hopes they are able to share a casket for the funeral, too, so they will always be together.



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