CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – “At this point, I still don’t know what’s going on. I still don’t get it. so I’m so shocked from not knowing where my daughter is, to ‘she’s been brain dead for an hour.’ It was pretty traumatic for me. I don’t think any parent should have to go through what I went through that Sunday.”
22News spoke with Valerie LaPlante a month after an accident in Shelburne claimed the life of her only child, Taryn. Valerie had Taryn at the young age of 18 and raised her as a single parent. The two were so close that she compared their bond to that of sisters.
“She’s just all I had. I don’t have a big family, I don’t have people like her, like she was it for me,” Valerie said. “She was my neighbor, we bought a house, my boyfriend and I bought a house, and we moved her in next door.”
Valerie painfully recalled the moment she learned that her 22-year-old daughter had been in a terrible car accident.
“I got a call from her passenger that morning,” she said. “And it wasn’t clicking to me, maybe because I wasn’t thinking. She said they got into a car accident, she said that they had rolled over, she said that my daughter was still breathing, and she got life flighted. She wasn’t sure where.
“It took me about a half hour to find out where my daughter was—calling hospitals, calling police station,” she explained. It was heart wrenching not knowing and I’m thinking the whole time, ‘if it was an emergency, somebody would call…’ nobody called. Nobody came. And we’re neighbors. I live right next door to my daughter.”
By the time she had located Taryn, the doctors informed her that her daughter had no brain activity. It’s something Valerie said she could have never prepared for.
“Of course I’m always asking why,” Valerie explained. “Why did it take them so long to get her out of the car? Or why they brought her back, because she was in such rough condition. I do know from what I’m told that my daughter had put her arm out in front of the passenger when all this was happening.
Is that the type of person she was?
“Yeah. She always helped people, she loved helping people.”
Valerie brought herself to the site of the crash weeks later so that she could see where her daughter had passed.
“It took me awhile to get out there but I needed closure, I needed to see and it’s really peaceful.”
What used to be just a tree at the corner of Colrain Shelburne Road and Carpenter Road is now a memorial decorated with photos, flowers, and candles.
“I take comfort in knowing that my daughter wasn’t alone, and that there are really nice people in this world,” she said. “The gentleman who lived in the house where the tree was came out and helped my daughter and there was a couple in front that were driving in front of them that must have seen this accident and got out and helped the passenger.”
Although Valerie doesn’t know all the circumstances of the crash. She asks that all drivers slow down.
“The only thing I can say is don’t speed. Speed was an issue, speed was a factor. Just don’t speed. She was on a dark road, it was a dark hill.”
Who was Taryn LaPlante?
Taryn attended South Hadley public schools for most of her childhood but graduated from Holyoke High School in 2015. Most recently, she was a fulltime student at Springfield Technical Community College studying criminal justice.
“She was just so smart. She could pretty much do anything she could just pick up a book and get it. Going and emptying her house a little bit, going through and just seeing everything. All of the homework she did and all the stuff she had done I just couldn’t believe it.”
Valerie recalled Taryn’s love for shopping, traveling, Michael Kors, the color purple, and her dog Noodle. She simply loved life and loved those around her.
You don’t have to look far to get an idea of how many people Taryn positively impacted. Her Facebook wall is filled with tributes and memories from friends, family, and acquaintances. Her employer, Valet Park, also honored her memory with photos and a touching review a customer had left before her passing that exemplifies the type of person she was.
“I love my daughter so much. My daughter taught me a lot of things in life. She had a huge heart, she was always doing things for others, ugh, she was always just so busy being her, being a kid.”
Valerie says she tries to stay strong with the help of her friends and family.
“There’s certain music that reminds me of her. I was on vacation this past weekend and I saw a girl in a dress that was just like hers so I felt like she was there.
“I’m going to miss her. I think about her every day. I feel like life got away from us, you know, because at 22 I know she was busy and I’m busy and we’re both really busy and I just feel like we should have spent more time together, but how can you? You can’t predict these things to happen. You don’t, you don’t.”