Sole Survivor of Hot Air Balloon Crash Lost Brother to Murder 2 Years Ago

"Unfortunately, we know all too well the grief those families are feeling," shared Valerie Stutterheim's parents on a GoFundMe page The parents of the sole survivor of an Arizona hot air balloon crash that killed four people endured a different tragedy less than two years ago

Published Time: 07.02.2024 - 05:31:04 Modified Time: 07.02.2024 - 05:31:04

"Unfortunately, we know all too well the grief those families are feeling," shared Valerie Stutterheim's parents on a GoFundMe page

The parents of the sole survivor of an Arizona hot air balloon crash that killed four people endured a different tragedy less than two years ago.

Valerie Stutterheim, 23, remains in critical condition following the Jan. 14 accident that claimed the lives of four others: Chayton Wiescholek, 28, of Union City, Mich.; Kaitlynn Bartrom, 28, of Andrews, Ind.; Atahan Kiliccote, 24, of Cupertino, Calif.; and the pilot, Cornelius Van Der Walt, 37, of Eloy, Ariz.

Valerie's parents, Tony and Martha Stutterheim, shared in a GoFundMe page that their daughter suffered a “traumatic brain injury” and has “extensive” injuries.

It's not the first time the Stutterheims have faced tragedy; in 2022, Valerie's older brother, Ian Stutterheim, 25, died in a murder-suicide.

Ian was shot by Kevin McManis, 31, on June 16, 2022, in Flagstaff, Arizona, according to the Arizona Republic, Fox 10 Phoneix and the Associated Press. McManis shot his estranged wife Tianna Guglielmo, 31, multiple times before turning the gun on himself. Guglielmo, who survived, was a coworker of Ian's.

“Ian was a loving son and brother. He was incredibly protective of his younger sister, Valerie, and often spoke about wi -

shing he could shield her from the hard parts of life,” read Ian’s obituary.

In the GoFundMe for Valerie's hospital bills, the Stutterheims alluded to Ian's death without elaborating on the details. “Unfortunately, we know all too well the grief those families are feeling,” they wrote. The parents explained that “less than two years ago,” the family “endured another tragedy."

The “full long-term effects” of her brain injury and her mobility “remain uncertain.” 

“Valerie has a very long road of rehabilitation,” shared her parents, adding that she “currently cannot speak.” Her father shared an update on Monday that Valerie is currently in physical therapy,

The Stutterheims described Valerie as “an extraordinary soul” who is “kind-hearted, empathetic, witty, responsible, and creative."

"The world could use a lot more people like Valerie,” they added. 

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If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.

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