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3 siblings who lost parents, baby sister in car crash reunite in hospital, continue recovery

Angela Clemens, 8, and her brothers, Zachary, 5, and Wyatt, 4, continue to recover from a horrific crash that killed their parents and sister. “This is all about miracles," a great-aunt tells TODAY.
Siblings reunite in hospital after tragic wreck
The Clemens familyCourtesy of Teresa Burrell
/ Source: TODAY

Physical therapy and counseling sessions fill the days of three young siblings at a Texas hospital where they slowly recover from a horrific car crash that killed their parents and baby sister.

But last week, the siblings received some motivation during a special joint therapy session between 8-year-old Angela Clemens and her brothers, Zachary, 5, and Wyatt, 4.

“It was the first time all three had seen each other since the accident,” said Teresa Burrell, a great-aunt to the children. “ It was what they really needed. They just are grieving and were comforting each other.”

The three children have been at a Fort Worth hospital since April 7, when their family was driving home from an afternoon church service more than three hours away in San Angelo, Texas.

A vehicle slammed head-on into the SUV driven by the children’s parents, Jim and Karisa Clemens, killing both adults. The family's youngest child, a 2-month-old girl, Juliana, also was killed.

The other driver, Monique Austin, 23, of Midland, and her 1-year-old son were severely injured, according to police.

Jim and Karisa Clemens, and their daughter, Julieanna.
Jim and Karisa Clemens, and their newborn daughter, Julieanna, were killed in the April 7 car crash. Facebook

Angela broke both of her legs and suffered severe head trauma that left her in a coma for nearly a week. Burrell told TODAY that progress has been slow but steady.

“The first thing she asked about was Wyatt. ‘Where’s Wyatt? I want to see Wyatt.’ So we knew she had remembrance of her family,” Burrell said. “It’s really hard with brain damage to know where you're headed. But we are very hopeful from where we were a couple of weeks ago.”

Angela has since starting reading, writing and even singing along to songs with her siblings.

Her brother, Wyatt, has shown incredible recovery from several strokes and initial paralysis to the left side of his body. He now can raise his left arm above his head and even walk, although he would prefer to run, Burrell said.

“His balance is a little off but, gosh, he's just amazing. He’s a normal, wiggly 4-year-old,” she said.

Last week he went to visit his sister but got antsy after a few minutes, saying he was ready to return to his own room, full of toys and other play things.

Angela "just leaned over towards him, looked him in the eyes and said, ‘Wyatt. I need you.’ And he stayed with her for 25 minutes and sat like that with her,” Burrell said. “That was pretty profound because if you know anything about Wyatt, he doesn't sit anywhere for that long.”

The family continues to worry the most about Zachary, who broke his back and suffered numerous internal injuries. He also was the only survivor who remained conscious throughout the crash.

He has been battling depression. He also struggles with eating, so over the weekend the family decided to bring the siblings together and hold an ice cream party to help load Zachary up with calories.

“They sang silly songs and it was like night and day. He just improved,” Burrell said. “All three of them being together just lifted his spirits. He just cheered up."

A fourth sibling, 2-year-old Nicholas, was hospitalized for his injuries but released days later into the care of an aunt. Eventually, all four children will go home with their grandmother, Karisa's mother, who hasn’t left the children’s side since the accident, Burrell said.

Fundraising pages have been set up on Facebook and on YouCaring to help the family pay for medical bills as well as adjustments they will need to make to their future home to accommodate the children’s injuries.

Despite the tragedy the family, Burrell said her loved ones have found comfort in each other and their strong Mormon faith. She also has been lifted by the tremendous outpouring of support from strangers around the world.

“This is all about miracles. We give it all to miracles. I’ll tell you flat out that's absolutely what we believe,” she said.

“So many good people, from all different kinds of faiths, have united their prayers on behalf of these children, and we've felt it," Burrell said. "We felt it as a family and we've definitely seen it in these children. We've just seen it. It's just been a miracle and it's been amazing.”