AUSTIN (KXAN) — Rosie McElroy, the treasurer of Knox County, overheard a coworker’s police scanner Tuesday morning. A major crash had just been reported in nearby Haskell County.
McElroy immediately tried to reach her daughter and son-in-law, Sara and Jose Miñán, who were visiting from Austin for Thanksgiving and were out on a shopping trip with their 9-year-old son, Eli.
When McElroy saw the county sheriff approaching her shortly thereafter, she knew instantly what he was going to say. Sara and Jose Miñán had died after a collision with another driver and their son, Eli, was being airlifted to a hospital in Abilene.
The driver of a pickup truck, 55-year-old Michael Bowman, failed to yield the right of way when he turned left toward US 277, according to the Texas Dept. of Public Safety. Bowman crashed into the Miñán’s car, which left the roadway and caught fire. Bowman is believed to have taken his life after the crash.
“Sara and Jose were engulfed in flames,” McElroy told KXAN. “It was like there was a shield, angels’ wings around (Eli), and he didn’t even get a scratch except for the seatbelt burn.”
McElroy went with her husband and Eli’s younger brother, Ander, to Abilene after the crash. When she told Eli what had happened to his parents, McElroy said the boy was immediately sick to his stomach. Both boys are staying with family friends of the Miñán’s in Austin.
A surprise love story
Sara and Jose met by chance, while she was on a mission trip in his native Spain, and quickly fell in love, to McElroy’s chagrin. McElroy feared that her daughter would fall in love far, far away from their West Texas home and never come back.
“I was angry,” McElroy said, describing an argument with Sara in her apartment in Spain. “After that, I met Jose and I loved him.”
Sara and Jose married in 2002 and moved to Austin a few years later. Jose learned English, according to McElroy, by watching Sci-Fi programs. She learned some Spanish to communicate with him, too.
The couple fought for a family of their own and suffered multiple miscarriages before Eli was born in 2010. Ander followed a couple of years later.
“Oh my gosh, that was just… that was the light of their life,” McElroy said. “They loved being mom and dad.”
Sara and Jose’s impact
McElroy knew her daughter and son-in-law were connected in the Austin community, but didn’t realize the scale until after their passing. She said there has been outpouring of support from Redeemer Lutheran School, where Sara taught Spanish, and Hope Chapel, Sara and Jose’s home church for many years.
Carol Mueller, principal of Redeemer Lutheran School, said counselors and the church’s pastoral staff will be on campus Monday to help students and faculty grieve.
“With Sara, you always felt like she loved you,” Mueller said. “Sara invested in people… so you never doubted where that love came from.”
Friends of Sara and Jose said they’ll never forget the couple’s generosity and how they showcased their faith.
A GoFundMe page set up by Cassie McKee, a family friend of 15 years, has raised more than $25,000 for Eli and Ander.
“They have so many people that are praying for them and that love them and that will always be there for them,” McKee said.
McElroy said she feels an impossible pain at the loss of Sara and Jose, but that the pain is proof of the couple’s impact.
“I hope I can be the kind of person that she wants me to be because I know that from now on she’ll be guiding me and watching me, watching over me,” McElroy said. “Until I see her again, I’m going to do that.”