Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 13, 2004

W-M student Ashley Melville recovering following car accident

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

If you want any indication of what kind of girl 16-year-old Watertown-Mayer High School student Ashley Melville of New Germany is – just look at the more than 100 messages left on her web site.

Messages are posted by everyone from friends, clergy, teachers, friends of her family, her little sister, and even a school custodian.

“Everybody knows Ashley Melville,” said Watertown-Mayer High School Principal Scott Gengler. “She’s the kind of kid who comes to school with a smile on her face – she’s always more concerned about the welfare of others than herself.”

The welfare of Ashley became something that those people who surround her on a daily basis suddenly became very concerned about Dec. 4.

Melville was involved in a head-on collision on Highway 7 Dec. 4, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. She was traveling eastbound just after 5 p.m. in a 1987 Acura Legend, when Gregory Trautman, 21, of Litchfield, traveling westbound, struck Melville head-on with his 1997 Chevy Cavalier. Melville was wearing her seatbelt.

Trautman was attempting to pass a 1997 Chevy Surburban being driven by Danielle Christina Usita, 23, of Watertown, according to a preliminary report from the Minnesota State Patrol.

Usita’s vehicle was also struck by the impact of the other two vehicles, but Usita was not injured in the crash and was wearing her seatbelt.

The preliminary report also indicated that Trautman did not have his headlights on. Results of toxicology reports take several weeks to process, commented Nathan Bowie of the Minnesota State Patrol, so it is not known at this time if alcohol or drugs played a role in this crash.

Trautman died two days after the crash at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). Melville remains hospitalized at HCMC in serious condition.

“The good news is she’s on the road to recovery,” Gengler said. Watertown-Mayer students are constantly asking what they can do to offer encouragement to Melville.

Some groups of students have already made large cards that multiple people are signing, and have planned different activities, and other “surprises” that Gengler doesn’t want to spill the beans on just yet.

“We wanted to say thank you to everyone who has reached out to Ashley over the past few days,” her parents, Andy and Bonnie, said in a statement posted on http://www.caringbridge.org/mn/ashleymelville.

“She’s an incredibly strong young lady and we have watched her make dramatic improvements each and every day. Sometimes it feels like she improves in ways that only we can see, and sometimes the progress amazes everyone. We are so thankful that you have reached out to our daughter. It means everything to us and we’re certain that your prayers are being answered.

“We feel blessed to be a member of this wonderful community. It may be a while before Ashley can answer each of you personally. We’ll be sure to tell her that this site is here and once she’s able, I’m sure she will respond to each and every one of you. Thanks again for all of your support. It will mean the world to her.”

Melville suffered a hard blow to her head and was not conscious when she was airlifted to HCMC, according to her web site. From Saturday night until Monday night, she faded in and out of consciousness, but has been making steady improvements.

Her jaw has been broken in several places. Her right wrist is broken and dislocated. Her right ankle/foot is broken and her left ankle is badly sprained.

Melville’s jaw has already been surgically repaired and she was scheduled to have surgery on her wrist Wednesday, according to her web site.

“It’s been pretty quiet around the halls and classrooms. She’s at the forefront of our thoughts. She’s a super, super kid, an outstanding student,” Gengler said. “We’re still in disbelief.”


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