The death of a child is any parent’s worst nightmare; losing all of them, then, is practically beyond imagination. But, tragically, that’s what happened to this couple when their three kids were killed in a horrifying crash. Aged five, four and two, the children had barely had lives at all. But then, just six months on, the grief-stricken parents made a miraculous discovery.
Lori and Chris Coble had enjoyed a happy home, filled with love, laughter and the boundless energy of three young children. The Cobles were the proud parents of five-year-old Kyle, four-year-old Emma and two-year-old Katie. But their lively household would suddenly fall silent one awful day.
And that day happened to be the one following Kyle’s fifth birthday. Mom Lori – along with grandma Cindy – had packed up the kids and headed to the mall. Kyle was particularly excited to ride the Ferris wheel set up there along with taking a fun visit to the pet store.
As the day wore on, the three young children grew tired, and as a result, mom and grandma piled the kids into the minivan to head home. Then when Lori was stopped in a line of traffic exiting the highway, she turned and saw little Katie starting to nod off. That, however, is when tragedy struck.
As Lori tickled Katie’s toes to keep her awake, an enormous rig was powering towards the back of her minivan. While traveling at 55 miles per hour and fully loaded with 40,000 pounds of freight, the rig crashed into the rear of the minivan, completely destroying it. Upon impact, Lori was knocked out cold.
The injuries that everyone sustained in the wreck were so severe that the family had to be separated to receive the best care possible. Lori and Cindy were taken to one hospital, Kyle and Katie were sent to another, and Emma went to yet another. Dad Chris was at work when he received the devastating phone call.
Chris immediately went to the hospital where Lori had been placed. And upon his arrival, he was ushered to a private room close to the emergency room. There he was delivered some life-changing news. As he told CNN, “The doctor told me, ‘I’m sorry, but Katie has expired.’”
Before the grief of losing his two-year-old daughter could register, though, Chris received a call from another hospital. He explained to CNN, “I got on the phone and the first thing I said was, ‘Please tell me Emma’s alive.’” Tragically, the doctor at the other end dealt another shattering blow: his second daughter had died, too.
Chris added, “I just dropped the phone. I couldn’t believe what was happening.” With Lori now conscious, it was up to Chris to deliver her the awful news. Despite Lori’s injuries and grief, however, Chris swiftly made his way to another hospital to be by Kyle’s side.
Seeing Kyle with his eyes open immediately filled Chris with optimism. The news doctors delivered, however, was yet another hammer blow: Kyle’s brain was failing to receive an oxygen supply. And the suggested course of action was to take the five-year-old off the life support machine.
Meanwhile, by now Lori was stable enough to be transported to her son’s hospital so that the couple could say goodbye to him together. As Chris elaborated to CNN, “She’s climbing out of the wheelchair the best she can to hug Kyle, saying, ‘He’s got to be with his sisters now. His sisters are waiting for him.’”
“We stopped life support, and the machines went dark and the room went dark,” added Chris. “I held my hand on his chest until his heart stopped beating. And he was gone.” Kyle had been a vivacious boy – full of beans and very popular with other kids.
Quieter than her older brother, Emma was nonetheless very brave, with an adventurous streak. She loved to have fun and was filled with boundless energy. Meanwhile, Katie, the youngest, was very sociable and loved to dress up as a princess. Understandably, the loss of all three of them would change the Cobles’ lives for ever.
And the nature of their new reality only hit them during the funeral arrangements. Lori told CNN, “The day before the funeral, we did a viewing. We got to see the kids one last time. They opened the doors and in the back of the room [were] just three little caskets in a semicircle.”
The devastation both parents felt was naturally all-consuming, and Chris described that feeling as best he could to CNN. “To some degree, you want to be with [the children] and end this constant feeling of grief,” he said. “You could easily consider taking your own life because maybe it will be better in the sense that you’ll see them again.”
But Chris and Lori, along with Cindy and Lori’s two older brothers, pulled together and somehow made it through the insurmountable heartbreak. And after having taken to describing themselves as “parents without children,” Chris and Lori decided to try for more kids just three months after the tragedy.
Realizing that they could have difficulty conceiving naturally, Lori and Chris duly attempted IVF treatment. And out of a possible ten eggs, three were fertilized. Now the couple actually planned to keep only two of the three – that is, until they received some shocking news that would change their minds. They learned that they were expecting two girls and a boy.
“We took that as a sign from above,” said Lori. So very nearly on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, Lori delivered triplets – Jake, Ashley and Ellie. And while they’re no replacement for the couple’s lost children, sure enough, a little happiness soon returned to the Cobles’ lives.
Meanwhile, the rig driver held responsible for the accident, Jorge Romero, had a past record of speeding and was handed a sentence of a year in prison for three charges of vehicular manslaughter. Lori and Chris nonetheless forgave him, though, perhaps because Romero, himself a father of three, was beside himself with guilt. In fact, the Cobles went on to sue the California Department of Transportation for wrongful death, since the area in which the accident occurred was a known trouble spot. However, they eventually lost the case.
As for the triplets? They’re now eight years old and know all about their older brother and sisters through photos around the home and their mom and dad’s stories. What’s more, the family regularly pay tribute to Kyle, Emma and Katie with picnics near their graves. Indeed, Lori admitted to CNN that she believes their happiness now is all down to their lost children, saying, “I think it’s a miracle… I think they helped us, I think they made this possible.”