MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Her death sparked major safety improvements on Minnesota’s deadliest highway. Yet, the loss of 25-year-old Chelsea Langhans, of Maple Plain, Minn. is one her family will be forced to grapple with for years to come.
“Some days it feels like it was just yesterday,” Chelsea’s younger sister, Tori, said.
Chelsea was killed August 22, 2015 when a driver crossed the Highway 12 centerline, separated only by rumble strips, and struck her head on.
On Sunday afternoon, one day shy of the anniversary of Chelsea’s death, friends and family gathered at Father Hennepin Bluff Park in Minneapolis to remember her.
In front of the park’s pavilion, Chelsea’s cousin, Kelsey, led the group through a series of yoga poses.
“Harry Potter, yoga, friends and family are basically Chelsea’s favorite words,” Tori said.
That is why it was only fitting for all who loved Chelsea to partake in her favorite practice ahead the dedication ceremony.
“This park specifically has a special meaning for Chel,” Chelsea’s older sister, Liz Squires, said to the crowd of about a hundred friends and family.
“She used to love taking runs from campus across the Stone Arch Bridge,” Squires recalled. “She just loved the view.”
Chelsea even had the route she often jogged during her time at the University of Minnesota mapped out for her sisters. Many mornings she sent her family pictures of her view across the Stone Arch Bridge.
At the memorial, Squires announced the park’s latest additions.
With donations from family and friends, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation dedicated two refurbished benches and planted a young Espresso Kentucky Coffee tree in Chelsea’s honor inside Father Hennepin Bluff Park. The fixtures allow Chelsea’s memory to remain in one of her favorite places for many years to come.
During the dedication ceremony, a family friend sung some of Chelsea’s favorite Taylor Swift songs, as those who love her shed tears and shared hugs in front of her new benches.
Each bench has a plaque with loving words for Chelsea.
“Taken from us to soon, you are dearly loved and greatly missed. Until we meet again dear, Chelsea, Namaste,” was among the sentiments.
“It just goes to show you how loved Chelsea was,” Squires said.
“It’s been hard to believe we’ve been able to survive a year without Chelsea,” she said.
Squire and the Langhans have led the Highway 12 safety movement and have pushed for improvements now underway along the 10-mile stretch of the highway. The repairs include a barrier along the median, a roundabout and better turn lanes at the highway’s intersections.
“[It’s] still hard to drive down the road every day but with the changes it will be better,” Tori told Fox 9.
West Hennepin Public Safety Chief Gary Kroells says over the past five years there have been more than 850 crashes and 24 deaths on Highway 12.
The astonishing numbers are why some hope the highway’s current construction projects are just the beginning.
“A year later it’s still really hard,” Chelsea’s mother, Tina, said.
“The [repairs] are kind of a Band-Aid I think for now, but it’s going to get us through. It’s going to help us get through the deaths going higher on that road for the intersections.”
While grateful for the current Minnesota Department of Transportation-funded projects, the Langhans find it disconcerting lawmakers failed to pass a transportation bonding bill that would’ve funded long-term solutions along Highway 12 –including its total realignment.
“We’re very disappointed on the bonding bill that there was no special session called …because our road does need to be fixed,” Tina said.
Current construction on Highway 12 will extend into early November.