Calgary siblings devastated after Arizona crash leaves their triplet sister dead

A Canadian woman is among three people killed in a crash in Arizona last week that also left her husband in a coma.

Patti Lou Doornbos killed Tuesday while her husband, Ron, fights for his life

Ron and Patti Lou Doornbos on their wedding day in 2013. (Submitted by Alison Veldkamp)

A Canadian woman was among three people killed in a crash in Arizona last week that also left her husband in a coma. 

Patti Lou Doornbos — who goes by Lou — and Ron Doornbos, both 60, were on a sidewalk on their way to go hiking in Fountain Hills March 13, about 50 kilometres northeast of Phoenix, when they were hit from behind by a Ford Explorer.

Lou was killed instantly and Ron was thrown roughly 30 metres, suffering serious head and internal injuries.

He remains in a coma in the intensive care unit in a hospital in Arizona, having already undergone three surgeries.

Another couple who were walking nearby — Karen Bonta, 71, and Robert Bonta, 72, from Iowa — were also killed in the crash. Investigators are looking into whether distracted driving played a role in the crash.

Lou's sister, Rhonda Francis, said Ron will likely have to undergo several more surgeries, and the family is travelling to Arizona to be with him. Lou and Francis were triplets, along with sister Terri Dutka. 

Triplets Rhonda Francis, left, Terri Dutka, centre, and Patti Lou Doornbos celebrated their 60th birthday in September. (Submitted by Alison Veldkamp)

"I haven't really processed this yet. But I know we will have many stages to go through," Francis said.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's office has said charges are pending against the driver of the Ford Explorer, 27-year-old Alex Bashaw.

Francis said police in Arizona told the family they have subpoenaed Bashaw's cellphone as part of the investigation.

"He was going approximately [70 kilometres] an hour, which is over the speed limit," she said. "He hit the meridian on a big, wide-open street. As far as I know my sister and her husband were standing on the corner."

Patti Lou Doornbos was killed and Ron Doornbos critically injured in March 13 crash in Arizona. (Submitted by Alison Veldkamp)

Francis added the Bontas were apparently walking in a marked crosswalk when they were hit.

Lou and Ron had been in Arizona only a few days visiting Ron's brother, Derk Doornbos, and his wife, Linda, who had rented a home there as an escape from Calgary's winter weather.

"They had gotten up early that morning. They were avid outdoor enthusiasts," Francis said.

"She was an example to everyone on how to live life to the fullest," Dutka said.

A vigil was held Thursday at an amphitheatre in the nearby Fountain Park, which was attended by more than 100 people.

Calgary siblings devastated after Arizona crash leaves triplet sister dead 1:00

Friends since teenagers

Married in 2013, Lou and Ron had been friends since they were teenagers and it wasn't until they were in their 50s that love blossomed between the pair.

"Lou and Ron went for coffee one day and six months later they decided to get married," Francis said.

"It was just the right time for both of them. They were the perfect couple."

Ron and Patti Lou Doornbos wore runners on their wedding day as a nod to their love of being active. (Submitted by Alison Veldkamp)

The three sisters operated a successful company, Fairy Fastener, even making an appearance on the hit CBC-TV show Dragons' Den. The born-and-raised Calgarians also once appeared in an ad for Village Brewery as part of its seasonal offering, Village Triplet.

"We did everything together," Francis said. "We just had our 60th birthday. We celebrated in September and had probably 240 people at the party. [Lou] had a huge network of friends through all the things she's done with her cycle clubs, her running clubs, her book clubs."

Francis and Dutka said the loss of their sister is simply devastating.

"It's unbelievable. We screamed until our throats were sore. I've been hoarse for days," Francis said.

"Words can't describe it. I feel very raw. I feel very alone," Dutka said. 

Terri Dutka, right, and Rhonda Francis share a photo of themselves with their triplet Patti Lou Doornbos as children. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Dutka said people often ask them what it's like to be a triplet.

"I don't know what it's like not to be a triplet. It's like having two best friends."

Francis said their main focus right now is supporting their grieving parents, their other two siblings and Ron.

"We have to be strong for Ron. We have to make sure we can get him home," Francis said. "His family is our family as well.… We were always over at their house for dinners."

Ron has worked as a project co-ordinator with Telus for several years while Lou recently retired from a lengthy career working in human resources at oil and gas companies.

He has also served as race director for the Harvest Half Marathon for nearly 20 years.

With files from Anis Heydari