CLOSE CALL: Passengers Walk Away From Crash

Five years ago Tuesday, TJ Claussen survived the Little Sioux tornado. Over the weekend, the Eagle Scout walked away from a head-on car crash on Interstate 80. Tuesday, his sister is out of the hospital, but his best friend is still in critical condition.

The three were heading home to Adair after a night at the movies in Des Moines.

“I looked up and saw two pair of headlights,” says Claussen.

A split second later, a car going the wrong way on I-80 slammed into them. The crash broke his younger sister’s arm and pinned 20-year-old Jessie Leeper in the driver`s seat of his new Trans Am.

“I saw the color. That was the only thing I could really recognize,” says TJ’s Mom, Becky Claussen.

Her son and Leeper have been best friends since pre-school. They become Eagle Scouts the same year. TJ has only a few bumps and bruises while Leeper was critically injured. He is recovering at an Iowa City hospital.

“There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be able to bounce back,” says TJ Claussen.

“I think the word ‘quit’ doesn’t exist in his vocabulary or ‘I can’t do it’ so I think, I know he’ll pull through this,” says mom, Becky.

Just like TJ did five years ago. He spent five days in the hospital after a tornado ripped through the Boy Scout camp.

“He’s been there for me when I’ve needed him and so I’m just going to try to be there for him when he needs me,” says TJ.

As they all pray for Leeper, TJ’s mom can’t help but hope this is their last close call.

“I was very, very fortunate that our kids are in the condition that they are in. I’m very thankful to God for that one,” she says.

The State Patrol is awaiting toxicology results to determine if alcohol contributed to the crash that killed 24-year-old Megan Wakeham. A third driver involved in the accident was not hurt.


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