Mantua family loses four of its eight members in deadly Idaho car crash

Sep 5, 2023, 6:50 PM

MANTUA, Utah  — A community is mourning the loss of several members of the Blaine family, who were treasured there.

Idaho State Police said four members of that family were killed Friday night when their car hit a commercial vehicle head-on. Investigators said the driver, 46-year-old Jennifer Blaine crossed over the center line.

Nate Blaine, father and husband to the crash victims, said some of his family members were heading to the Tetons Friday to meet him and his son, Bronco for a backpacking trip.

Blaine said he called his wife, Jennifer as she and her car full of kids and a dog made their way up to meet him at the trailhead.

“I knew she gets tired when it gets late and I told her, ‘Do you want to get a hotel because it’s getting late,?’ and she said, ‘No, I’m sleeping in a hammock tonight.'”

He said when they hadn’t arrived Saturday, he knew something was wrong. A call from law enforcement confirmed his worst fear.

“When I found out, I immediately fell to the ground just sobbing,” Blaine said.

Blaine lost his wife, Jennifer, (whom he calls Jen), his daughters: 11-year-old Denali Blaine and 22-year-old Emily Leavitt, 24-year-old son-in-law Zach Leavitt, and his dog, Peaches. All died on the scene.

“Most people don’t like to see their loved ones like that but for me, I had to see them. I had to know if it was real,” Blaine said.

Nate Blaine came back home to Mantua after the tragic crash. Nearly every fence line, mailbox, and post in town was decorated in ribbon for its missing members.

It’s where his daughter, Denali Blaine, grew up.

“I won’t ever get to tuck her in bed at night anymore, I won’t get to sing to her at night, I did it every night her whole life since she was a little baby,” Blaine said.

He said he will remember her cuddling their dog, Peaches up until their last moments.

“The loss hurts, but I know that her work is done here,” Blaine said.

Jennifer Blaine was the director of the Promontory School of Expeditionary Learning. It’s also where Denali went to school.

“She knew every child in that school that she worked at, she knew them by name, she knew every parent’s name and she cared about each one of them,” Blaine said.

The campus plans to dedicate a spot in its memorial garden to the 6th grader and leader they lost too soon.

“The most important to her is the person sitting in front of her,” Blaine said of Jen. “She gives them all her attention.”

At the Blaine family home, signs offer the most bittersweet of homecomings for two missionaries, Deven and Ben Blaine, who never got to say goodbye to their siblings and mother.

“They missed the mom hug,” Nate Blaine said.

Nate Blaine said he hopes his surviving children continue to feel their mother’s love.

“Jen and I loved each other deeply,” he said. “I had enough hugs from her for a lifetime and I can continue to give them out for the rest of my life. So I hope when they hug me, they feel like they’re hugging Jen now.”

Included in the family picture wall at the Blaine’s home is Zach Leavitt, who is the Blaine’s son-in-law. Blaine said he considered Leavitt as one of his own. He married their daughter, Emily in August of 2022.

“From the day we met the Blaines, there was something special,” Tracy Leavitt, Zach’s mother said.

Emily and Zach Leavitt had only been married one year. Nate Blaine described them as “two peas in a pod.”

“She could put him in his place and he loved that about her,” Doug Leavitt, Zach’s father said.

The two had begun married life together studying at Brigham Young University-Provo.

“He was finishing up an electrical engineering degree and then he was going to go to law school to become patent IP lawyer,” Doug Leavitt said.

They had plans to visit every national park together.

“Every adventure he could dream up, she was game for and probably made it more safe than he did,” Doug Leavitt said.

Their family said they have peace knowing they passed together.

“That sealing wasn’t between Zach and Emily, it was between all of us, so our eternal family extends here in Mantua,” Doug Leavitt said.

The Blaine family funeral is set for Sept. 16 at the Brigham City Stake Center.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help support the surviving family members.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the GoFundMe account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk. 

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Mantua family loses four of its eight members in deadly Idaho car crash