Mom: Forest Lake teen was 'most courageous person I ever met'

- She turned 18 on Thursday and had begun summer school the day before that.  And on Monday, just beginning a walk home from class, she lost her life in an intersection just north of the school in Forest Lake, Minn.

THE ACCIDENT - Forest Lake teen hit, killed walking home from summer school

Katherine Loahr, who goes by the name Katya, had overcome a lot of challenges in her far too short life.  Adopted from Russia at age two, her mother said Katya had an attachment problem that’s typical to children from those orphanages.

“I always told her she was the most courageous person I ever met,” Lora Ukaegbu told Fox 9. “And I meant it every time. She overcame a lot.”

Ukaegbu said she and her daughter grew so close that Katya referred to them as the Gilmore Girls, referring to the TV show.  “She’s my Rory, I’m her Lorelai,” she said, tearing up at the thought of how much that described their deep attachment despite Katya’s early problems.

“For her to be that attached, it was a miracle and that was a great thing,” she told us. “We were mom and daughter but we were really, really close. We shared everything.”

Katya was set to graduate from St. Francis High School this spring, but fell behind after suffering a second concussion in January.  Her family had moved to Forest Lake over the winter, so it made sense to make up the classes close to home.

She’d begun summer school last Wednesday.  Then, her mom had surgery on Friday.  Unable to drive during her recovery, Katya was walking home Monday when tragedy struck.

Walking across Highway 97, which runs along the north side of Century Junior High School, where summer classes are held, she was hit by a Jeep Cherokee driven by a 65-year-old from Forest Lake, who was turning onto the highway.

The east side of the intersection, where Katya was crossing, does not have a designated crosswalk, but it does appear she was crossing with the light.  The intersection is also at an angle, which may have played into being able to see.

‘It’s weird. It’s a strange little intersection, not really sure how to describe it,” Ukaegbu said. “But, it doesn’t look like it would be good for two schools to be together on an intersection like that.” 

Forest Lake High School is also on the south side of the highway.

Katya loved being in the school band, where she played the bassoon.  Her mom said one of her favorite sayings was “when all else fails, go to the band room.”  She also loved animals and hoped to be a veterinary technician.

Her funeral is planned for Friday in Ham Lake.

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