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'STRONG, DEEP CONNECTION' BINDS FOREST GROVE SISTERS

COURTESY PHOTO - Samantha Cadd (left) died in a car accident south of Gaston on April 6. Her sister Stephanie Cadd (right) is recovering from multiple injuries.In the photo, the Cadd sisters of Forest Grove are holding hands and moving in a circle as the Pacific Ocean laps at their feet.

The scene is pure joy: Amie and Jessica are laughing. A long-legged Stephanie grasps the right hand of Samantha, whose back is to the camera. All are in shorts on a hot August day.

But after a terrible car accident south of Gaston last Wednesday, April 6, the youngest sister will be missing from future family photos.

Stephanie was driving south on Highway 47 toward Yamhill late that afternoon to meet Jessica, a George Fox University student, at a bakery where Stephanie had just secured a job. She was bringing 14-year-old Samantha (“Sam”) along to share in the celebration.

Jessica arrived on time at Bella Luna Gluten Free Patisserie on Maple Street. Sam and Stephanie did not. A northbound car had crossed the highway median just after 4 p.m., causing Stephanie to yank her Chrysler PT Cruiser to the right. The wheels slid sideways and shot the vehicle across the roadway into the direct path of a Toyota Camry traveling north. Its driver, Jill Yoder of Hillsboro, crashed into the passenger side of the Cadd car and sent if off the highway down a short embankment.

Sam died at the scene. Stephanie, 18, was taken by Oregon Lifeguard helicopter to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland with critical injuries.

Yoder, 57, was rushed to Oregon Health & Science University with serious injuries.

The person who veered over the center line escaped contact with the other two cars, according to Oregon State Police Lt. Bill Fugate. He or she left the scene of the accident but later called to report possible involvement in the crash. As of Tuesday morning police hadn’t released that driver’s name because the investigation remained active and “there’s a potential for criminal charges,” Fugate said.

Lt. Doug Shugart of OSP said it could take months to complete the investigation because of a backlog of fatal crashes statewide. The area where Sam Cadd perished, near milepost 29, “isn’t a high-crash area,” he noted, though “there have been some accidents” at the intersection of Highway 47 and Flett Road just to the north.

Long roads ahead

On Monday, Jill Yoder remained at OHSU with a broken collarbone, sternum and left fibula and a collapsed lung, but is expected to make “a full recovery,” said her husband, Alan Yoder.

Like the Cadds, the Yoders, too, raised a household of four daughters, ranging in age from 17 to 24. Jill, a stay-at-home mom, home-schooled them all.

Alan Yoder said Friday that Jill told him the crash happened in a split second, “like when a deer jumps out in front of you.”

From her hospital bed, Jill faintly remembered the Cadd sisters’ car crossing the highway in front of her. At first she perceived that the other two vehicles had avoided a collision “and thought, ‘Wow, that was close,’” said Alan. “And then the car was coming right at her.”

He said it has been difficult for his wife to process the reality that someone died in a crash she was involved in.

“That’s one of the hard things,” Alan said of the crash trauma and the Cadd family’s grief. “I can relate, but yet I can’t.”

Stephanie Cadd, a longtime dancer who was scheduled to perform with Portland’s Pendulum Aerial Arts later this month, suffered a broken arm, a concussion and bruised lungs in the crash. She underwent surgery Thursday on her jaw, which was broken in two places. COURTESY PHOTO - The Cadd sisters of Forest Grove -- Amie Cadd Musselwhite, Jessica Cadd, Stephanie Cadd and Samantha Cadd -- posed for a photo during a trip to the Oregon Coast in 2013.

She was home from Emanuel Tuesday morning.

Though Stephanie is expected to heal from her physical injuries, the hearts of her parents, Donnita and Dan Cadd of Forest Grove, are shattered after losing their youngest daughter, a free-spirited introvert who had an infectious laugh, played video games with people all over the world and loved the color black. Sam Cadd was a freshman at Forest Grove High School until February, when she transferred to an online academy.

“She’s completely numb,” Forest Grove resident Shelley Draper said of her friend Donnita. “Everyone is focusing on Stephanie — their first concern is her healing and her dealing with the emotional impact of her sister’s death.”

Connections cross families

Married for almost 30 years, Dan and Donnita Cadd have centered their lives on their girls, said another family friend, Dannell McKinnon of Forest Grove.

Dan, a building inspector, passed on his dry sense of humor to Sam, Dannell said. Donnita, a daycare provider, worked at Forest Grove Dance Arts for several years to support Stephanie’s love of dance.

“Her biggest title is mom and wife,” Shelley said of Donnita.

Sam was the fifth and last daughter (no sons) in the family.

The couple’s fourth daughter, Elizabeth, died at birth in 2000.

Among other things, that long-ago sorrow connected Donnita to Shelley, who also lost a daughter shortly after birth, and to Dannell, who lost a twin in utero.

The surviving twin, Alaina, now belongs to a trio of best friends that includes Stephanie and Tommie-ann, Shelley’s daughter.

While Stephanie graduated early from Forest Grove High in 2015 and went on to pursue a study of contortion, Alaina is enrolled in Baker Charter Schools’ web academy as a senior and Tommie-ann is finishing her final year at FGHS.

“They’ve basically been inseparable since they first became friends,” said Dannell.

‘Our soft rock’

Tommie-ann and Stephanie met and became friends in sixth-grade. “Tommie introduced Steph to dance,” said Shelley, and soon Alaina was a regular part of the teenage trio. They were members of the Junior Vikettes dance team together and have shared everything from sleepovers to travails over boyfriends.

While Alaina and Tommie-ann tend to be spontaneous and sometimes butt heads, Stephanie is “non-confrontational and the most sane one in our whole friend group,” said Tommie-ann. “She’s really strong. She’s the core. She’s our soft rock.”

Now, when Tommie-ann and Alaina talk about Stephanie and the long road ahead, their eyes well up. Stephanie, a smart, focused student with dreams of someday performing contortion professionally, will be devastated over the loss of her sister, said Shelley.

“They were really close — hands on, touchy, loving and caring.”

Samantha had recently cut her long, dark blond hair while Stephanie kept her waist-length, strawberry blond locks. Stephanie, who “looks like a goddess,” said Tommie-ann, “would get her hair and makeup done, but Sam hated makeup. Sam and Stephanie looked so much alike, but their personalities were so different.” COURTESY PHOTO - Amie Cadd Musselwhite, Jessica Cadd, Stephanie Cadd (far right) and Samantha Cadd (back to camera) frolicked in the surf at Rockaway Beach in August 2013.

Sam “had a lot of hidden talents,” Alaina said, including a soulful singing voice she looked forward to developing.

The youngest two Cadd sisters maintained “a strong, deep connection” to the end, said Shelley.

Stephanie’s best friends plan to walk with her as she begins to absorb the emotional impact of the accident.

“Alaina and I will be with her every step of the way,” said Tommie-ann.

Online tributes honor Samantha

This weekend, on the other side of the world, some United Kingdom residents are planning to hold a wake for Samantha Cadd.

This service and the online testaments posted by Sam’s numerous friends in the worldwide online gaming community are a tribute to what they describe as the 14-year-old’s maturity, humor and kindness. They’re also a window into the online gaming world and the amazingly deep friendships that can be formed between people who never meet. Here are some comments from her faraway friends:

From Drew, who lives in England:

“There are too many things to list of what I loved about her and what made her, her. We’ve made so many memories together, between just us and the rest of the guys. She was truly one in a million. I’ll always treasure the times we had together, no matter what.

Yes, Sam was 14, yet her mind was so much more mature than that of her age. She died too young.

So Sam, I will always love you, I will miss you for the rest of my days ... you meant so much to me and so many other people, you were truly amazing.”

From Libby and Stulli, who live in England and Iceland, respectively:

“For someone as special as Sam, there are no words to describe how beautiful she was: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Even by laughing she could bring a smile to people’s dark and rainy days and make the thunder cloud disappear from over everyone’s head.

It might be hard for some people to understand how the connection we had was so deep even though we’d never met, but you didn’t need to meet Sam face to face to fall in love with her soul. Her laughter was good enough.

We’d watch movies together at the same time and fall asleep talking to one another and send gifts overseas. Due to the time differences, we’d send Sam messages throughout our days so she’d laugh as soon as she woke, and save thoughts to tell her when we would all be together later that day. Although Sam was young, her understanding of life in general was astounding. Normally people you come across are just a grain of sand, but Sam was the entire beach and wave in the ocean.

We’ll forever be changed after meeting Sam after our hearts were touched by her. She was so kind to every single person she met and she was an inspiration to everyone.”

From Rachel Orme, who lives in England:

“On the 6th of April 2016, two days ago, my closest friend in the world, Sam, passed away. I had known her for 6 years; we met through video games.

She lived 4,939 miles away from me, in Oregon. But that never limited our friendship. We never got to meet, and I won’t be able to go to her funeral.

We would always make plans of what we were going to do when we finally met up. We would make jokes about how hugs would never work when I was 6 feet and she was 5-foot-1.

You were only 14, but you were so mature and emotionally intelligent. You had so many plans, what you were going to do with your life and what you were going to achieve. You could always make me laugh with your quick jokes and witty comebacks.

Thank you for the memories, the good times, and the laughing together ‘til we cried over Skype. Thank you for being a light in some of my darkest times. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better me, and telling me that I could always accomplish what I set my mind to. Thank you for the Skype calls going into the early hours of the morning. Thank you so much for being a part of my life.”

Celebration of life Saturday

A public celebration of life service for Samantha Destiny “Sam” Cadd will be held at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at Pacific University.

Samie was born on June 5, 2001, and died on April 6, 2016. See a full obituary on page A10.

How you can help

Friends of the Cadd family have organized two ways community members can help defray funeral and medical expenses.

A fund has been set up at US Bank, 1940 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove, OR 97116, and is receiving donations.

Forest Grove Dance Arts, 1819 19th Ave., where Stephanie Cadd danced for years and Sam Cadd took acrobatics classes, is also raising money for the family. The studio is open Monday through Friday from noon to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. if people want to stop by and make a donation.

A note from Stephanie’s aerial arts troupe

Suzanne Kenney, founder and artistic director of Pendulum Aerial Arts in Portland — a performance arts and education program — issued a statement on social media last Friday related to the tragedy:

“Our hearts are breaking in our community at Pendulum as we pray for our beautiful professional training student Stephanie Cadd. She was in a serious car accident on Wednesday along with her sister. Sending love light and support to the entire Cadd family as they face this life changing event. We are a tight knit group and this is a very difficult time for everyone staff and students in our community who love and adore a very talented beautiful kind and warm hearted young lady I am reminded how fragile life is over and over again. Pray for Stephanie’s healing of body and mind and a return to her love of contortion, dance and circus very soon.”

Stephanie Cadd was due to perform April 22-24 in Pendulum’s newest show, “The World Is A Circus,” at the French American International School in Portland.

District deploys counselors

Members of the Forest Grove School District’s Flight Team were available Friday to tend to students and staff who wanted to talk about the tragic accident involving Stephanie and Samantha Cadd.

The team is made up of counselors and led by Fern Hill Elementary School Principal Naomi Montelongo.