Beach Trips' Tragic End

Two Maryland Mothers En Route To Vacations Killed On North Carolina Highway

August 14, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

They were leading their respective caravans to beaches in the Carolinas, a midsummer's vacation for two Maryland families that would end in a horrific accident on a two-lane North Carolina road.

Carney resident Cristina Sonn had driven to Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Sunday and picked up her best friend, her friend's daughter and another teenager. The four were headed to the Outer Banks in North Carolina along with Sonn's teenage son and three of his friends, who were riding in another car.

Loriann Bobotek, her two daughters and their friends were headed to a beach house in Myrtle Beach for the week. They left their home in Ellicott City early that day, with her husband and sons trailing in other vehicles.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol officers say Bobotek's van and Sonn's SUV collided head-on in the northbound lane, killing both drivers. The other seven passengers were taken to the hospital; four were released and the other three are expected to survive.

The women - who lived fewer than 30 miles apart - loved summer excursions, relatives said, and they both relished the chance to include friends and family on the outings.

"It's a shame that both of them drove all the way from Maryland and got killed," said Sonn's father, William Sonn. "And they were both doing the same thing - treating a bunch of kids to a swimming trip."

The accident occurred about 6:30 p.m. on U.S. 17 outside Vanceboro, N.C., about 25 miles south of Greenville. Sonn's 16-year-old son, Eric Malagra, was driving a car about five minutes ahead of his mother; the two had agreed to stop at the next exit for food before continuing to Cape Hatteras, where they would stay at the campsite the family has visited for years.

Malagra said he and his friends arrived at a restaurant, waited for a while and called his mother several times before deciding to backtrack. They arrived at the accident scene to see Sonn's body on a gurney.

"It was awful," William Sonn said. "The officers wouldn't allow him to go to the gurney."

Sonn, who worked for a German candy manufacturer, Haribo, in Baltimore County, was a hiking and fishing enthusiast, family members said. Her mother, Margaret, said from the family's home Thursday that her daughter had recently trained a young raccoon near the woods behind her house.

That Christina Sonn and her friend, Sherre Hutton, would supervise a half-dozen teenagers on a weeklong beach trip wasn't at all surprising, her family said.

"My parents always took neighborhood children on trips," said Sonn's younger sister, Dawn. "That's what Crissy was doing. She was going to give Eric's friends, Sherre and the kids an experience."

Bobotek's husband of 23 years, Mark, said his wife had similar plans. She had her daughters Katie, 18, and Sam, 16, in her vehicle, along with two of their friends, and was bound for Myrtle Beach.

"It was a family tradition she was very much looking forward to for a long time," Mark Bobotek said.

Loriann Bobotek grew up in the Baltimore area and graduated from Notre Dame Prep before attending American University. She worked as a paralegal in her husband's law firm for 11 years.

Mark Bobotek was driving a car not far behind his wife when he got the call that there had been an accident. He went straight to the hospital in Greenville, where his daughters remain with back injuries. Loriann Bobotek's parents came down later that night. The couple also has a 21-year-old son, Hank, and a 20-year-old foster child, Cody.

Bobotek said his wife swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid a car that had turned into her lane. He said she had a flawless driving record and would not have attempted to pass a slower vehicle, as police have said.

Bobotek works as an estate lawyer and said he deals with death frequently.

"But you just never expect this will be your own family," he said. "She was a very strong, warm person. She loved to be with her kids and friends."

Funeral arrangements for Bobotek have not been completed. Services for Sonn will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Lassahn Funeral Home in Kingsville.

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