Searching for closure: Widow looking for witnesses

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PAW PAW, Mich. — After losing her husband in a head on collision just days before Christmas, a Van Buren County woman is searching for anyone who may have been there to comfort him during his final moments.

Richard Grooten died on December 17th, after a truck driven by Villard Randy Mann, 66, crossed the center line on M-37 in Barry County, striking his vehicle head-on. Police said Mann suffered a medical emergency before hitting Grooten. A two-vehicle accident ultimately taking the lives of both drivers. Evonne Grooten, Richard's wife, said she needs closure. Grooten hopes to speak with those who stayed with her husband during his death.

"I’d like to know if he was still breathing," said Grooten. "I'd like to know if they touched him and comforted him, and tell them thank you if they did. I need the pieces because I’m still in a little bit of disbelief here. The way I have to grieve is, I have to know everything about it."

Grooten said her husband was a residential contractor who loved his job. He was driving from a construction site in Grand Rapids for a meeting in Battle Creek when it happened.

"He wasn’t answering my calls and the first couple were probably sarcastic, like 'why do you have a phone if you’re not gonna answer it'?" said Evonne. "And he usually calls me right back but he didn’t."

After hours passed, Evonne feared the worst had happened.

"Rick was supposed to come home that night," said Evonne. "When the deputy came to tell me at dinner, he was supposed to be home. And about quarter-to-seven the deputy came. I just told him, 'No, no, no. You can’t even come in,' because I knew what he was there to tell me."

Evonne and Richard were married 36 years. They had 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and one more on the way. Evonne described her husband as a good and honorable man who was strong in his faith. Unable to say goodbye to her husband, she's now searching for closure by speaking with anyone who may have comforted Richard during his death.

"My kids say, 'mom you don’t need to know all this,'" said Evonne. "But for me, I do. That’s the only way I can process this."

If you were there when that crash happened on December 17th, please contact the FOX 17 newsroom at 616-364-1717 or email us at news@fox17online.com.

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