BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Less than 24 hours after her mother was killed in a wrong-way, head-on crash, the victim’s daughter described their final moments together.
She worked at Waffle House, but most of her regulars didn’t know her as Heather Blackman. Instead, she was known by both her work name tag and her license plate: “Hummingbird.”
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Atkinson said it’s because her mother loved to hum.
She and Heather were headed to Target at about 9:30 p.m. Monday. The pair was heading east on Interstate 70 near Adams Dairy Parkway in Blue Springs.
“We were driving, and then I looked down at my phone," Chloe said. "Then I saw headlights, and then, that’s it.”
In that instant, police say an alleged drunk driver going the wrong way on I-70 killed the 44-year-old mom.
Chloe also went to the hospital and was treated for bruises from her seatbelt and abdominal pain.
“The on-ramp kind of comes up at you, so you can’t really see anything until the last little bit," Heather’s brother Dana Graf said. "That’s the exit they were going to take.”
Missouri Highway Patrol says 37-year-old Desiree Smith was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk.
They’ll be asking prosecutors to seek involuntary manslaughter charges, but she hasn't been formally charged at this time. As of Tuesday night, Smith was still in the hospital with serious injuries.
“We hope that by sharing our story and talking a little bit about it, that it can help prevent even one other individual from carrying out a senseless act," Graf said.
The act took away a single mother of six, her kids ranging in age from 13 to 22. (Her family said she had one child who died as a baby.)
“She provided for these kids all by herself," Heather’s mother Theresa Hieronymus said. "Heather, she was a very strong person, very strong willed.”
She loved playing card games over the holidays with her big family. She left behind five siblings, five kids, one granddaughter and 18 nieces and nephews.
The family’s deep grief was accompanied by occasional, reminiscent laughter.
“We’re a family of jokers, of practical jokers, and Heather was one of them," Hieronymus said.
“As my mom joked, she once put me in the dryer," Graf said. "We got in an argument one time. She’s four years older than me, and she punched me with my own fist!”
“She was kind and loving and she did whatever she could for us," Chloe said through tears.
Her mother said Heather’s kids were her first priority.
“We as a family, we just ask, we beg, that before folks get behind the wheel, if they’ve had something to drink, that they pause. They stop and they think about it,” Graf said.