RAYMORE, Mo. — Community support gives one Raymore family hope during the hardest time of their lives. They lost their 17-year-old son in a watercraft accident earlier this month.
Chad Westendorf sits in a Chevy truck, the one he and his son, Owen, were fixing up. They didn’t cross the finish line before the 17-year-old unexpectedly died.
On a family day at Blue Springs Lake, Owen was found unresponsive in the water.
Chad was on a boat, searching for his son when he saw the commotion.
“It just all of a sudden hit me. I’m like, ‘Was there a kid on that boat?’ They’re like, ‘Yes,'” Chad said. “And I’m like, ‘Is it a boy?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ So I jumped in and swam over. They were doing chest compressions on my son.”
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said Owen was thrown from his Sea-Doo, which caused a severe brain injury. Days later, he died.
“He just had a zest for life,” his mom Rachel Westendorf said. “That is what I miss about my son. He loved life, and he played hard at whatever he was doing.”
Owen leaves behind five siblings.
“I couldn’t move,” his sister Natalie Westendorf said. “I was just in shock.”
Their family is very close. Rachel said it’s a whirlwind of emotions — staying strong for her family, while missing her energetic, fun-loving and funny boy, who is no longer here.
“When you have six like we did, and you lose one, especially him,” Chad said, “there’s still five and it just feels so empty.”
“It feels like there’s no one here though, there’s seven of us,” Rachel said. “It’s such a big hole.”
Chad cherishes the memories, like coaching Owen in Baseball at Raymore Recreation Park. He said Owen liked the sport and athletics, but one-on-one time with dad and the pancakes that came after was his favorite part.
“This place was very, very dear to mine and his heart,” Chad said.
Chad said 30-40 of Owen’s friend showed up at the hospital in support.
They also knew how much Owen’s truck meant. As he took his last breaths, they spent hours under the hood, and the community pitched in parts to get the engine started.
“All the caring and comfort, it doesn’t make it go away,” Chad said. “But it helps so much.”
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