‘Last Christmas as a family’ — New info comes out in fatal NJ toll plaza crash
ATLANTIC CITY — A family day of shopping turned into tragedy when a car crashed into the Egg Harbor toll plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway Sunday night.
The Honda passenger vehicle struck the plaza around 9:10 p.m. and quickly became completely engulfed in flames, according to State Police.
The driver, identified by State Police as Reachthon “Tonny” Khiev, 31, his brother Reachsieh “Johnny” Khiev, 27 of Manchester, New Hampshire, and their sister, Keotepie Khiev, 14, of Atlantic City, all died in the firey crash.
A third passenger, who was their 12-year-old sister, and a worker at the toll plaza were hospitalized for non-life-threatening injuries. State Police on Tuesday morning did not have an update on their conditions.
A day with family
"Johnny and Tonny were visiting their little sisters from New Hampshire to surprise them for the holiday weekend. They were on their way back home to drop off their sisters from a day full of shopping and dinner. Unfortunately, it was their best and last Christmas as a family," Mimi Khiev wrote on a GoFundMe page created help with funeral expenses.
Family friend Jimmy Giang told 6 ABC Action News that no one was drinking during dinner.
Mimi Khiev said her brothers were in-home care providers who came to the United States from Cambodia when they were young. Their dream was to move their whole family to New Hampshire and open a donut shop. They provided the sole financial support for the family of nine, she said.
"They both had a huge heart and were full of life. They touched so many people's lives and deserved so much more life than they got. They fought so many battles and smiled through it all," Mimi Khiev wrote. "Those who knew them know how contagious their smiles were and how they would do anything to make sure that their loved ones are taken care of."
Keotepie Khiev was a 9th grade student at Atlantic City High School where she was a member of ROTC who finished the last marking period with high honors and dreamed of studying in Paris on a scholarship. Nicknamed Keo, she was the first member of the family born in the United States.
"She would always tell me how she is competing to beat one of our sister’s ROTC records for timed sit-ups. She loved reading Mangas, and watching anime whenever she had free time. She also spent a lot of time on discord with her high-school friends and enjoyed playing Minecraft," Mimi Khiev said.
Prayers at the Egg Harbor toll plaza
Wil Del Valle of the Crossbridge Community Church in Swedesboro wrote on his Facebook page that he and his wife witnessed the crash and stopped to help. He said the car "banged" twice and noticed the 12-year-old sister walking away from the crash. He offered to pray with her as several other people who also stopped to help.
"When we tried to get her to walk but she continued to stumble so I picked her up into my arms and ran to the toll booth offices. I kept saying 'it’s okay' and she continued to repeat 'no it's not my brothers and sister are in the car this is my fault.' I continued to reassure her she did the right thing by getting out of the car," Del Valle wrote.
Del Valle said he will not easily forget the events of the evening and asked for donations to the GoFundMe page.
"I won’t forget the sounds or smells, and I won’t forget this brave 12-year-old girl who got out of the car, and was desperately thinking of her family. She wanted them out of the car but she did all she could. All this to say that this girl, these people did all they could, and it was incredibly sad," Del Valle wrote.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ