MOHAVE COUNTY, AZ — A Mohave County mother is slowly recovering in a Las Vegas hospital after a wrong-way driver crashed into her vehicle. The crash happened on September 21 around 5:30 p.m. on State Route 68 near Golden Valley, Arizona.
Elizabeth Krebs, who goes by Liz, was driving home to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary. She later told investigators and relatives that as she was moving into the left lane to pass a slower vehicle, she was immediately hit head-on by a pick-up truck.
The Department of Public Safety told ABC15 they do not believe the elderly wrong-way driver was impaired, and they do not know how long she was traveling in the opposite direction. The 71-year-old was also taken to a hospital, but in a much better condition than Krebs.
"I was expecting her home for dinner," said Jon Krebs. "I had made a dinner and she didn't show up."
Jon knew something was wrong when his wife was late and not answering her phone. It was not just any other Tuesday, but their 25th wedding anniversary. He chalked up the unusual circumstances to a blown tire and bad cell service.
"Maybe she got a fender bender, and she doesn't have connection on the phone, because she wouldn't answer the phone. So, I drove towards the direction that she'd come home."
As Krebs got closer he saw his wife's car. The entire front was smashed in and the airbags had deployed. "I went and got Liz's stuff out of her car [days later], and I don't know how she survived, I really don't," said Krebs' sister, Geni Borland.
"I immediately went to the Kingman Regional Medical Center and was there the moment she got on the "Flight for Life" helicopter to Las Vegas Sunrise," said Jon.
"She had six fractured ribs, a severed artery in her uterus. She lost 37 centimeters of her intestines. She had surgery to reconnect the hip to the femur because both were broken. She had a broken patella... she had to have immediate surgery for ankle reconstruction," Jon said, before admitting all the injuries and medical jargon has been overwhelming.
The injuries are severe and rare, but wrong-way crashes are far too common across Arizona.
In the latter part of the last decade, AAA noted a 65% increase in wrong-way fatalities.
DPS is also responding to more wrong-way crashes. The state agency told ABC15 that in 2021 troopers are on pace to respond to 18% more wrong-way collisions than in 2020. The crashes are 14% higher than 2019 when far more people were on the roads and not working from home.
IN NEED OF SOME HELP:
Liz Krebs is all about giving back and helping people. "My mom is probably one of the kindest people I've ever met," said Emily, Liz's oldest daughter. "She's always there to help."
Liz works as an investigator for the Mohave County Legal Advocate’s Office, helping foster kids and families.
Now her family needs the help. "I know they're going to have a lot of medical bills," said Borland.
"We're like a lot of Americans in this country - living paycheck to paycheck," said Jon.
Jon said the family just finished paying off an expensive surgery from a couple of years ago. "We were getting ready to try to buy a house," he said. "Now we just have to start all over again. It was really hard to take in when they talked about, 'We're at costs over half a million.' It's just astronomical. I don't know what we're going to do."
A GoFundMe is looking to help offset the mounting medical bills and years of rehabilitation Liz is staring down.
The mother, of course, is in too much pain and on too many medications to be thinking of the journey ahead, let alone the financial burden associated with it.
One of the first things she thought about though, was the person that hit her. "After waking up...the second thing she asked me was, 'How are the people that hit me? Are they okay?' recounted Jon, choking back tears.
Jon said they have received so many prayers and tremendous support from the community. He is now leaning on their family and, most of all, their faith.
"The good Lord knows that she's out there to help people and [will] continue to. So I believe He said, 'It's not your time, Liz. It's not your time, you still have a lot of work to do.'"
They also have many more wedding anniversaries to celebrate.
"They're gonna have quite the story to share on their 50th wedding anniversary," said Borland.