The two families spent the weekend laughing and splashing at Bridgeport State Recreation Area, known for its sandpit lakes where people swim, boat and jet ski.
It was a celebration — Nevaeh Montoya’s 14th birthday.
But the end of a fun-filled weekend quickly turned tragic, after an SUV hydroplaned, spun into another lane and was rear-ended by a semitrailer truck Sunday evening.
All five occupants of the SUV were killed, including Nevaeh and two other children. Truck driver Brian Schmer, 61, of Hudson, Colorado, was taken to a local hospital with injuries.
The fatal crash on Highway 385, north of Bridgeport, which is about 35 miles southeast of Scottsbluff, has left two families and communities in Nebraska and Colorado reeling. Authorities said Monday that the crash is still under investigation.
Those killed were driver Amy Red Nest, 30, of Alliance; her two daughters, Emma Reza, 13, and Falicia Reza, 9; and, from Westminster, Colorado, Vanessa Gomez, 31, and Nevaeh.
Carlos Reza, Red Nest’s longtime partner and father of Emma and Falicia, said he and Nevaeh’s father were in a separate car and took a bit longer to pack up. The families are friends, and both cars were headed back to Alliance.
Reza worried about Red Nest driving in the pouring rain. Then they came upon the accident.
Reza and Red Nest had been together for 17 years — they met as teenagers. They have four daughters: Emma, Falicia, Bailey, 10, and Dana, 14.
Red Nest was a certified nursing assistant at the Oglala Sioux Lakota Nursing Home in Whiteclay, where director of nursing Pam McDonald said she was beloved by staff and patients alike. The nursing home brought in counselors this week after Red Nest’s death.
“She was just the most loving, kind, generous person that you could ever meet,” McDonald said. “Everyone was her friend, everyone. Whether you knew it or not.”
Reza said Red Nest was a hard worker and devoted mom.
“Amy was one of the best mothers out there,” he said.
McDonald said the family-oriented Red Nest set up her shifts so she could work Monday through Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were for shuttling her girls around to softball and other activities.
Reza said Emma “was my all-star.” She played volleyball, softball and basketball and ran track.
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Troy Unzicker, superintendent of the Alliance Public Schools, said he believed that Emma was about to start eighth grade and that Falicia Reza would have been a fourth-grader.
Falicia had an artsy side, Reza said, and loved turning cartwheels, playing softball and teasing her big sisters.
Funeral arrangements for Reza’s family are still being finalized, though he said visitation would likely be Thursday, with funerals Friday.
A memorial fund has been set up for the Red Nest-Reza family at Consumers Cooperative Federal Credit Union, at 217 Toluca Ave., P.O. Box 836, Alliance, NE 69301. Donations can be dropped off or mailed in. There’s also a Venmo account set up at @Colette-Johnson-18.