Minnesota woman unlikely to survive crash that killed husband, daughter, unborn child

ST. PAUL -- The mother of a pregnant Cannon Falls woman critically injured Monday in a Dakota County collision said Tuesday that her daughter was breathing only through a ventilator and that the family is "going to let her go."...

An October 2015 family photo of Elizabeth Calderara, 26, left, who was fighting for her life Tuesday at Regions Hospital in St. Paul following a car crash Monday, July 18, that killed her husband, Jason, 31, and the couple's 1-year-old daughter, Melody, center. (Courtesy photo)

ST. PAUL -- The mother of a pregnant Cannon Falls woman critically injured Monday in a Dakota County collision said Tuesday that her daughter was breathing only through a ventilator and that the family is “going to let her go.”

Speaking from Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Tuesday afternoon, Elizabeth Calderara’s mother, Suzanne Mohn Brantly, said her daughter is “not going to make it.”

“The head trauma and the neck trauma were just too great,” she said. “We’ve decided to say goodbye.”

On Tuesday, Calderara’s father was headed to St. Paul from North Carolina, where he lives, while her husband’s mother was coming from Texas.

“So right now they’re doing their best to keep her alive until we can get more family here,” she said.



Elizabeth Calderara’s husband, Jason Calderara, 31, and the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Melody, died at the scene of the crash in rural southern Dakota County.

Calderara was 35 weeks pregnant and lost her unborn child, whom she planned to name Hawk, Brantly said.

Jason Calderara was driving a Kia Sportage SUV that collided with a semitrailer about 11:25 a.m. on Minnesota 56 in Hampton Township.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Calderara, 26, and her stepson, Nicholas Calderara, 9, were airlifted to hospitals, the patrol said. Nicholas was seriously injured, too.

Nicholas was in the intensive care unit at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Brantly said.

“Betsy loved her little ones,” she said.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the family was heading north on Minnesota 56 when Jason Calderara pulled out to pass a car north of 280th Street. After passing, the Sportage cut back to the northbound lane at the “last second” to avoid hitting a minivan that was southbound, the patrol said. The minivan driver moved to the right and slammed on the brakes, as did the semitrailer driver behind, causing the truck to jackknife and slam into the Sportage.


“The word that comes to mind is ‘tragic,’” Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said Tuesday. “Here is a family that’s no longer a family.”

The driver of the truck was identified as James B. Sathre, 71, of Faribault, Minn. His injuries weren’t life-threatening.

Brantly said she is struggling to grasp the magnitude of the crash.

“It’s really hard right now,” she said. “I have a lot of family and friends who are coming here to the hospital. It’s like a revolving door.”

Elizabeth Calderara and her family had a false alarm early Monday, Brantly said.

Her contractions were intense enough to send her to the hospital in the middle of the night. A picture she took and shared on Facebook at 1:24 a.m. shows Jason resting in a hospital room chair, with Melody sleeping on his chest, a sippy cup in her mouth. Nicholas was asleep in a hospital bed.

“Dragging the fam out for a false alarm in the middle of the night … feel kinda dumb but better safe then sorry,” Calderara wrote.

Brantly and Calderara texted each other after she was discharged from the hospital.


“She was having pains, contractions that were timeable, and she said once they got there they slowed way down and then stopped,” she said. “So they sent her home.”

Elizabeth Calderara was a shift leader at a Walgreens in Burnsville. She grew up in Prior Lake, where she was home-schooled. She met Jason Calderara while attending a Bible college in Texas, and they married in October 2013.

“He was perfect for my daughter,” Brantly said. “That’s all I can say. He was a stay-at-home father and he took care of his daughter and his son.”

Nicholas also lives with his mother in Willmar, Minn., which is where the family was headed at the time of the crash, Brantly said.

“He’s a smart little boy, very smart boy and thankfully he’s going to come through this with flying colors,” she said. “He has a lot of broken bones, but they’ll be able to be fixed.”

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