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Twin Cities family reeling after crash kills young father, two kids

A crash on Sunday in Ham Lake killed Lee Vang and his two kids, while injuring his wife and oldest daughter. The family needs help with funeral and medical expenses.

ST PAUL, Minn — A Twin Cities family is reeling after a tragic car crash in Ham Lake Sunday afternoon killed a young father and two of his children, leaving relatives to face thousands of dollars in funeral expenses and medical bills.

According to the Anoka County Sheriff's Office, 28-year-old Lee Vang of Andover was driving an SUV westbound with his family on Bunker Lake Boulevard, when he crossed the median and crashed into a truck, killing him, his three-year-old daughter Astrid, and six-month-old son Levi. His oldest daughter, seven-year-old Kyrie, remains in critical condition while his wife, Rhodia, broke her arm.

On Tuesday evening, the St. Paul-based Hmong 18 Council organized a news conference with about a dozen family members, speaking publicly for the first time about the crash. 

"The last few days have been a whirlwind, trying to really comprehend the loss of not just my brother, but my niece and my nephew," Lee Vang's sister, Maxine Vue, said. "They were so young. It's such a tragedy. Just trying to come to terms that they're not here with us."

Maxine described her brother as an avid outdoorsman who loved camping, fishing and spending time with his family. On Sunday, she said, her brother had come to her house to pick up his oldest daughter after spending the morning at the Minnesota State Fair. The crash occurred on their way home.

Lee Vang's mother, Yeng Vang, lived in the same house with her son and grandchildren. 

"I miss them so much," she said through a translator. "I don't know how to live anymore. The house is so quiet without them, my grandkids. That is my son, who I live with. He's the one who cooks for me. He's the one who takes care of me. I miss him so much. Every time I think about him, I cry. I can't sleep."

Maxine Vue said her surviving niece, Kyrie, is still unresponsive and sedated at the hospital. However, she said swelling has gone down, and doctors have been encouraged by movement in her fingers and toes. She said her sister-in-law, Rhodia, has many bruises in addition to her broken arm, and the family is trying to support her the best they can.

A GoFundMe organized by Rhodia's co-worker has raised more than $12,000 as of Tuesday evening. The family thanked the community for the outpouring of support and said the donations will help them cover the upcoming funeral and ongoing hospital expenses.

This is one of several tragedies to impact Hmong American families in the Twin Cities this summer, including a hit-and-run and two murder-suicides in Vadnais Heights and St. Paul.

"On behalf of the Hmong community, I would like to ask the community for support, for donations for the funeral costs and for the hospital bills for the two still at the hospital," Hmong 18 Council President Paul Xiong said. "For me, and for community leaders, we're still trying to understand why this happens, with the summer here. Three events, three tragedies ... we just don't know what to say. We're all just in shock mode at this point."

Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Minnesota State Patrol and Anoka County Sheriff's Office, are investigating Sunday's crash in Ham Lake. It's not clear what caused Lee Vang's SUV to cross the median and hit a pickup truck. The two men in that truck were not seriously hurt. 

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