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Mother in Dakota County crash declared brain dead, to donate organs

ST. PAUL — Elizabeth Calderara, the Cannon Falls woman who was on life support after a Monday car crash in rural Dakota County that killed her husband and 1-year-old daughter, was declared brain dead Wednesday night at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

Calderara’s heart and other organs will be donated, her mother, Suzanne Mohn Brantly, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday morning.

“Her heart is still beating and she is still on a ventilator in order to keep her heart and organs alive until the surgeons of the organ recipients are able to arrive,” she wrote. “Because her brain stopped before her heart, she will be able to gift her whole heart to someone in need instead of just her heart valves. Most likely it will be later this evening when that happens.”

Calderara, 26, who suffered head and neck trauma, was 35 weeks pregnant and lost her unborn child, a boy she and her husband, Jason, planned to name Hawk.

Jason, 31, and the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Melody, died at the scene of the crash in southern Dakota County, northeast of Randolph. Jason’s 9-year-old son, Nicholas Calderara, survived the accident but sustained serious injuries. He has been hospitalized at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul; his condition was not known Thursday.

The family was en route to Willmar, Minn., to bring the boy to his mother when the Kia Sportage SUV that Jason Calderara was driving collided with a semitrailer about 11:25 a.m. on Minnesota 56, a two-lane road.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, Calderara pulled out to pass a car north of 280th Street. After passing, the Sportage cut back to the northbound lane at the “last second” to avoid hitting a minivan that was southbound, the patrol said. The minivan driver moved to the right and slammed on the brakes, as did the semitrailer driver behind, causing the truck to jackknife and slam into the front of the Sportage.

They all were wearing seatbelts, the patrol said.

The driver of the truck, James B. Sathre, 71, of Faribault, Minn., incurred injuries not considered life-threatening.

To honor the donation of Elizabeth Calderara’s organs, family and friends planned to hold a flag-raising ceremony Thursday afternoon outside Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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