Baby ejected in crash recovering as family grieves


Relatives of the victims in a deadly crash on North Laburnum Avenue earlier this week said their loss is tremendous and they need help. The crash killed two people an injured three others, including a baby who was thrown from the car.  

One-year-old Thomas "Tommy" Opperman was still in the hospital Thursday, but is expected to be okay and may be released within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Tommy celebrated his first birthday on Sunday. Tragically, his mother was killed in the crash the very next day.

85-year-old Clarence R. Wimbush of the 600 block of Williamsburg Road and 32-year-old Reina S. Opperman of the 400 block of N. Laburnum Avenue were both killed in the crash.

Family members reported that Reina rode in the backseat with Tommy and was obsessive about making sure he was fastened in his car seat.

"Oh my God," Gretchen Miller, Tommy's Aunt, exclaimed while speaking about Reina's bond with Tommy. "That child was her world. Every day was that baby. I mean, that was the reason that she woke up in the morning."

Family members said Tommy was buckled in, but slipped through his car seat and was thrown in the collision.

"He somehow has survived something that he probably shouldn't have," said Miller.

Reina died on scene. So did Wimbush, a relative through marriage. Family members said Wimbush was driving when the accident happened.

The accident left Erik Opperman a single dad, mourning the loss of the love of his life. He said he knew he wanted to marry Reina the moment he laid eyes on her.

"There's no words to really put to how wonderful she was," said Miller describing Reina. "Beautiful, patient, kind, caring. Everything was for her husband and her child."

Officials told Tommy's family that he was probably thrown more than 70 feet. Initially, doctors worried about the possibility of significant neurological trauma. Tommy did have a small brain bleed, but doctors aren't worried about it now and they said, mentally and physically, the Elmo-loving toddler will have no lasting trauma. He is out of Critical Care, with only minor bruises and scrapes.

"It's a miracle," sighed Miller. "It's a miracle, truly. They have said there's no reason this child should have lived and I believe he had, I believe he had his mother."

Tommy was nursing, so the family is still working to make sure he's getting the nourishment he needs now that his mother has passed.

They said they're getting through this difficult time by leaning on each other and in remembering Reina in their hearts for the wonderful mother and wife that she was.

Erik Opperman credits the firefighters in Henrico at Station 7 and 6 with saving his son's life. He said when Tommy gets better, he can't wait to take him over to meet them.

The family does not have life insurance to cover the cost of a funeral or medical expenses. Friends have set up a fund for donations if you would like to help.

Checks can be made payable to the Thomas Opperman Trust Fund, through Citizens & Farmers Bank.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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By CapitalBay Online 06/15/2012 04:13:00
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