The Killing Of A Innocent

Jacqueline Hoffner Chen

On March 15,1994 my partner Howard, and my four children Tom, Jasmine, John, and Christina were blessed with a new daughter and sister. Brittany Leigh Hoffner entered the world by c-section at 4:39 am, weighing 7lbs 9 oz, 21 in. long. I had a healthy new daughter that was welcomed and accepted with all the love and joy a family could feel and offer. Truly we were complete.

Her siblings were as joyed watching her grow and discover as myself and her father. Brittany has three cousins, two of which adored her and watched her grow. Billy and Timmy visited often, along with my sister Tammy. Britt had a personality that was a charm, she was full of spunk, love for others and animals, she adored the outdoors, and was known for handing out candy to others before taking a piece for herself. Brittany learned to walk at 11 months, and was speaking sentences at 15 months. We all spent time reading to her, teaching her, and having quiet time alone with her. She captivated us, as we did her.

On March 10th, 1996 we celebrated her second Birthday at DZ Discovery Zone with many friends, family, and GodParents. What a wonderful day, she was overwhelmed at her party, not quite understanding the concept of "Birthday", but knew it was about her. Her siblings at the time were 9,11,13,16, all enjoyed the age of their two year old sister.

On April 6,1996 my youngest sister Dianah moved in with us for a while until she could get settled, she had only met Brittany once prior but they hit it off well. At the time we were remodeling our bathroom, and Dianah knew a lot about home improvements, it was a great situation, we all loved having her stay with us. Easter was on the seventh of April that year and it was so nice to have my sister there for the holiday. All the children enjoyed that day, old and young, one that will forever be the last holiday together.

April 9th, a Tuesday, I was still nursing Britt even though she was two years old and no longer needed it. She woke me early to nurse and then went down stairs with Dad to eat breakfast with her siblings before they went to school. The older children would have to ensure her that they would be right back from school, and she would everyday wait by the door for them at the appropriate time. They all kissed her before leaving and made plans to play certain games with her when they came home. I told Britt that we had plans that morning to go to Builders Square and then to lunch with Aunt Dianah and the contractor Tony. She was excited, and her 4 yr. old friend David would come with us also.

We left at 10:55am, Tony the contractor in the front passenger seat, David in the backseat behind him, Dianah in the back middle, Brittany in her car seat next to Dianah and behind me, the driver. We drove away with Brittany singing the alphabet, she didn't leave out a letter. As I approached a intersection, about 45 seconds away from our home, I saw a white car with the left-hand turn signal on and a large U-Haul truck behind that vehicle. I was going straight through and was being given the right of way by law. In the middle of the intersection, out of the corner of my eye I saw the U-Haul truck and felt it at the same time, I didn't know it then but he went around the vehicle giving me the right of way, cut him off and broadsided the entire drivers side of my minivan. We spun in the middle of the intersection 3-4 times and then hit again before coming to a complete stop. Tony began to scream and I didn't understand why, until I looked into the rearview mirror and saw Brittany. She was unconscious, her face was badly cut, and a large part of her forehead was exposed. I was fighting to get to her, all the windows were broken out, my door wouldn't open and I couldn't climb over to reach her. I jumped out of the passenger door, at this point Dianah took David out of the van, and the side door was open. I unbuckled my Brittany and removed her still body, I cradled her, and told her it looked worse than what it was. I felt like I was in the clouds, spinning. Tony flagged down a motorist that would take us to the hospital 5 min. away. His name: Angel. They both kept me from loosing it, I did CPR on Brittany the entire ride to the hospital.

Brittany never regained consciousness, upon arrival at the hospital they took her from me and shocked her heart, they got a pulse and assessed her injuries. Dianah and David arrived by ambulance with minor injuries. I had minor physical injuries, but I could feel my daughter dying, so I was dying too. The doctor came into a small private room where they put me, and told me to call family, Brittany was brain dead, all areas of her brain. Her temp. was in the 60's , her blood pressure was nil, and they wanted to transfer her in a few hours to a trauma center if she lived long enough to do so. I began to make phone calls, to her fathers job, the children's schools, and to very special friends. I had a job to do, I had to tell each one of them that our darling Brittany was going to die. All had different reactions, some cried, others screamed and ran out of the ER. her father was in complete denial, he wanted to see her ASAP. The doctors allowed myself, her father, Godmother, and a priest who was going to baptize her in to see her. Brittany was unrecognizable I couldn't believe that she was the little girl I brought in over a hour ago, swelling has consumed her entire face and head. Reality set in for us all who went in, as she was being baptized I ran out of the room, shock, grief, and anger set in. Guilt consumed me.

The police arrived to tell me of the man who was at fault for this and wanted my side of the story, I just kept screaming that he murdered my Brittany. By law they had to go in and see her, and the Doctors confirmed her condition to them. They told me that the man who hit us was devastated, he was sorry, he was in a hurry, and he didn't mean it. He was ticketed for failure to yield the right of way, making a improper left-hand turn, and failure to follow traffic laws. We were given a life sentence of hell living without Brittany.

The accident occurred at 10:57am, the machines that kept our Brittany alive were disconnected at 11:20pm and Brittany's heart stopped beating at 11:23pm. She was transferred to a trauma Hospital where all of her brothers and sisters sat with her, held her hand and told her of the love they will always have for her. I am proud of all my children for they are truly the greatest gifts from God. I called in a crisis team to our home the next day, and we continue therapy on a weekly basis.

We have many bad days, but now there are good also. Our faith is strong as is our love for one another. We miss her so very much, her little hands and short life touched our souls in a way that never will we be the same.

I am a member of Compassionate Friends, a advocate for safety, and a childless mother who suffers through a great tragedy. My other children suffer as much as I and sibling grief needs to be as recognized as adult grief, I'm getting the word out for all children.

Brittany we love you, let your light shine on darling, await us and know that you're safe now and forever, where no harm can come to you, right in all of our hearts.



Jacqueline Hoffner Chen

You can send email to Jacqueline at: [email protected]
mail welcome

anniversary date 04-09-96
date of post 01-09-98

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW