LAGRANGE — Caden Owsley remembers almost nothing about the 2020 crash that put him in a wheelchair.
Owsley, of Howe, a 2019 Lakeland graduate, was returning home with his friend Atticus Klopfenstein from a dream hunting trip out west when their truck lost control and crashed along an interstate highway near the Colorado/Nebraska line. Both young men were seriously injured. Owsley was ejected from the truck and was tossed several hundred feet.
Owsley woke up about two weeks later in a bed in a Denver hospital, unable to remember much of anything about the crash. He couldn’t remember anything about the two hours before the crash, and nothing about the two weeks after the crash.
However, he did have a few fleeting memories of a woman, someone with dark hair, who offered him comfort after he was injured. She kneeled down beside him on that road and assured the Howe man he was going to be okay. Then she stayed with Owsley until the paramedics arrived. She left without ever telling him her name.
Owsley was later flown to a Denver, Colorado hospital where he spent the next two months slowly recovering from his injuries. But those memories of the dark haired woman never disappeared.
Owsley’s parents, Russell and Shay Owsley made the trip to Colorado and were at his side most of that time. In mid-November, Caden was released from that Denver Hospital and allowed to make the trip home. Owsley continues his recovery, traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan several times a month for physical therapy.
A former Lakeland football player, Lakeland’s football team welcomed him back Friday night for their homecoming celebration against Garrett. Owsley was named an honorary team captain and was presented with a new Lakeland football jersey. But the woman given the honor of presenting that jersey to Owsley was the woman with the dark hair, Tonya Curran, of Lakewood, Colorado.
Owsley broke down in tears as Curran stepped down from the stands and walked toward him. The two hugged at midfield and Owsley thanked her.
Curran and her family traveled to LaGrange County from Lakewood. Curran told Owsley she’d spend the last year thinking about him, never knowing what happened to him until her phone rang just two weeks ago. It was Owsley’s parents.
Turns out Curran never learned in that year whether Owsley lived or died.
“No one would tell me what happened,” she said.
It took Owsley’s father Russell, a Howe fireman, to figure out who the woman with the dark hair was, and unite the two families. Russell Owsley said he thinks Curran saved his son’s life.
“I don’t think he’d still be with us without her,” Russell Owsley said.
It took Owsley months of combing through records and reports about the accident to find a clue that lead him to Curran. Owsley called her his son’s “guardian angel.”
Owsley’s mother, Shay Owsley, started speaking with Curran about two weeks ago and arranging a reunion. Shay Owsley said the first time she spoke to Curran, the two spent about an hour on the phone, sharing stories and tears.
“Those were tears of joy,” said Shay.
Friday night, before the game started, Curran, her husband Mike, and their children took their reserved seats in stands.
Caden was moved to midfield and kept busy. His parents had managed to keep secret they’d found the dark haired woman and she’d agreed to travel to Indiana to be with their son that night.
Curran said after the ceremony she’s been haunted by her memories of that day, wondering about the young man she’d comforted. Her husband, Mike, called the accident “horrific.”
“I’ve thought about that accident every day since,” she said. “It haunted me.”
Owsley said the second he saw Curran step from the stands, he knew she was the dark haired woman he remembered from that day.
Shay Owsley said now that the two families have connected, the friendship will only continue to grow.