GOSHEN — Christy Runion and Crystal Cybulski had never met until their brothers died in a traffic accident last summer.
But since the deaths of Daniel Runion and David Anglemyer, tragedy has led to friendship.
Brief chats led to texting and eventually, Christy attended Crystal’s birthday party and wedding.
Memories of their brothers remain a common thread in their conversations.
“We can talk with smiles and tears,” Crystal said. “It’s usually how the conversations go. We’ll just remember the boys as they were.”
That’s how they are known among the two families who have become linked together forever since the June 7 traffic accident.
The Runions and Anglemyers have gathered together numerous times since the deaths. They set up a joint bank account for donations to offset costs and have sat side by side in court proceedings for Daniel Snead who was driving the car that killed the teens as they bicycled along a road south of Elkhart just after the sun rose on that Thursday morning.
“We consider ourselves a very large family that lost two boys,” said Katie Runion, the mother of Daniel. She was among a handful of members of both families who agreed to sit down recently to talk about their loss at The Electric Brew coffee shop in Goshen.
The mothers say they were told by police that Snead had been using methamphetamine prior to the accident and was coming down from a high when he fell asleep while driving west on C.R. 20.
Shortly before 6 a.m., Snead’s vehicle crossed the centerline and then plowed into both bicyclists as they headed east.
Anglemyer died instantly. Runion was transported to a hospital in South Bend where he died about four hours later.
Runion and Anglemyer met in eighth grade while attending an after-school program at West Side Middle School in Elkhart and quickly became best friends.
Katie said she believed if they had survived they would have been “elbow to elbow forever.”
Both had very different personalities, a fact Daniel, who often wrote poetry as a way of expressing life’s joys and frustrations, highlighted in a poem about their friendship.
The poem read in part:
Some times I ponder
how we came to be
we are complete opposites,
so obvious anyone could see
Daniel, 19, had an outgoing and boisterous personality and made friends easily. David, 18, was shy and “brainy” and had an impressive knack for repairing everything from microwaves to washers.
Together, they enjoyed playing video games and fixing bikes and connected through a weird sense of humor, both mothers said.
Neither had finished high school and struggled with health issues. Daniel suffered from epilepsy and David dealt with migraine headaches.
Both were night owls and that was the case June 7 as they planned a long-distance bike ride. They had gone to the Wal-Mart in Osceola well after midnight to buy a bike and then spent hours making adjustments to their bikes, adding a light and then preparing items for a trip that would stretch from the Runion home in Osceola to Cybulski’s home in Goshen.
Katie said she still remembers her final conversation with David.
He told her he’d been riding mopeds and driving cars for so long that he was eager to try a lengthy bicycle ride. “I thought it would be healthier for me,” he said.
Katie first heard about an accident involving two bicyclists from a friend who called and suggested she try to reach the boys. She sent text messages to both asking for a quick reply, but that yielded nothing.
Sick with worry and unable to drive at the time, she decided to take a bus to Goshen to see if they were at Crystal’s. She had just arrived in Elkhart and boarded a second bus that would take her to Goshen when Crystal called with the news of the accident. She immediately turned around and boarded another bus for home.
“I cried all the way there,” she said.
By the time Katie was home, it was 10:30 a.m. She called the hospital in South Bend and learned Daniel had died about 13 minutes earlier.
For Kelly, the news of her son’s death was extremely painful. She had been in the midst of a difficult divorce and David’s death took a heavy toll that led to what she described as an emotional breakdown.
She and David were very close, she said.
Even at the age of 18, he would sit close to her and talk about life. “He was a very affectionate kid,” she said.
The last time she saw David alive was a few days before the accident when they walked together down to The Chief, a popular ice cream stand in Goshen.
“He talked my ear off about mopeds and what he wanted to do with his life. I try to remember how nice that was spending that time with him,” she said.
“Sometimes I just pray to God that I can see him again and hug him one more time,” Kelly said. “And I know that’s not going to happen. Not in this lifetime and it’s a hard reality to face.
Ten days ago, members of both families sat in a Goshen courtroom and heard Snead accept responsibility for the deaths and agree to a plea deal that will result in as many as 16 years in prison.
Even though it is unlikely he’ll be in prison that long, both mothers expressed satisfaction with the agreement. They said they hope he’ll straighten out his life and eventually work to warn people about the dangers of meth.
Prior to sentencing, both mothers will get a chance to speak in court. Katie is still trying to figure out what to say. Kelly has already prepared a statement.
Kelly said she will remind Snead that her son will never have a chance to be an uncle or a father.
His life, she said, has been stolen.
“For me, I just have to let him know how I feel and what he took from me,” Kelly said.
“Those two boys were very special.”
An account has been set up at PNC Bank to help offset the costs associated with the two teenagers’ deaths. Anyone interested in donating can make a deposit to the “Daniel and David Memorial Fund.”