WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – There was tragedy along a Sedgwick County Highway during the Monday morning commute.
Chain reaction crashes killed a woman and injured several others.
It all started around eight on U.S. 54, west of Garden Plain.
Deputies were working an accident when a semi slammed into a truck.
The driver of the truck was flown to the hospital.
Then, a van unable to stop in time went across the median and hit an SUV head-on killing the driver, 30-year-old Mendi Cotter.
Cotter was a well-known figure at Wichita State.
She was the communications director at the St. Paul University Parish.
People there say Cotter was not only a coworker but had become a good friend.
Now, they want her to be remembered not by her accident but for her love for life.
“Incredibly devastating, she was just a bright spot in the office,” said Anthony Cruzeiro, a coworker and friend.
“She was a very integral part of my life here at St. Paul,” said Austin Greathouse, a member of the St. Paul Parish Advisory Board.
There is a somber mood at the Parish and student center where Cotter’s office is left with an empty chair.
“Every time you come in this office, she’d be like what do you need because I always needed something,” said Greathouse, reflecting on his happy memories with Cotter.
“It’s still even hard to admit right now that she’s gone,” said Cruzeiro.
Those who would see her everyday in the office are still trying to grasp the news of her death.
“Her mother-in-law came in with law enforcement, and right away when you see law enforcement, you know it’s not a good situation,” said Cruzeiro.
That moment Monday morning is when they found out Cotter would not be coming back.
“That was definitely tough news to take,” said Cruzeiro.
Shortly after, Cotter’s husband Jason found out what happened.
He sent KSN’s Tiffany Lane a statement that reads, “I don’t have the words. She loved me and I loved her. The kind of love you spend an entire life searching and waiting for. She led me away from sin and helped me take the steps towards goals in life I had given up on. My life changed because of her and will never be the same without her.”
That goes for all the other people she has touched.
“I think she’d want us to remember the good times, the joy, and to know that she’s happy and in a better place now,” said Cruzeiro.
Fr. David Michael, pastor at St. Paul University Parish, Catholic Student Center at WSU, said in a statement:
“I have worked with Mendi very closely for more than a year. First, our work is different in nature because it is focused on the Mission of the Church. Working with us, no one will find true happiness and joy unless they are rooted in their faith. Thus, I know for sure that Mendi is rooted in her faith because she is very happy at her work at the Catholic Student Center. She is also a photographer and graphic designer. She is always proud of her work. She has a project coming up. A few days ago she shared with me about her project. She wants to interview students on WSU Campus and take pictures of them. Asking them if they have anything disturbing in their lives. Then, she said if they say yes, she will invite them to pray with her for a moment and take another picture after a short prayer together and see the difference on their faces. She and her family too are regular with their prayer life and Sacramental way of life. In fact, this morning the family went for the Daily Morning Mass to their home parish Church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Jesus, in his parable of the ten wedding attendants, Matthew 25:1-13, said, ‘Stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’ Mendi was the wise or sensible one, she was ready when the master called. Although her death was sudden and unexpected, shocking and sad, we are consoled that she is in the bosom of our Heavenly Father because of the Sacramental life she lived till her last day on earth.”
Students prayed at a Rosary Monday night at St. Paul in union with the Rosary at St. Elizabeth.