Utah County family gifted SUV after father died saving kids from crash

May 3, 2024, 9:57 PM | Updated: 10:19 pm

LINDON — A Utah County family received a heartwarming surprise Friday despite experiencing tragedy. After losing their father when he tried to save his children following a crash, the community came together to give the family one less thing to worry about.

Gathering at Murdock Hyundai in Lindon, several people related to the Kerttula family stood in a garage in the back, huddled around a black Palisade, talking excitedly.

The SUV was adorned with balloons and a big red bow.

There were hugs as the adults walked in, while the kids buzzed around the room.

Usually, getting a new car doesn’t involve this many people. But this occasion was one everyone wanted to see.

“We’re excited, it’s going to look so good,” said Brock Aiken, to his cousin Jeff Aiken.

Eventually, they lined up across from the SUV, looking at the door and waiting for the moment a very confused Sarah Kerttula walked in.

“Hi Sarah!” Brock Aiken said, cheerily. “We learned you were in need of a new car.”

Sarah put her hand on her heart, as her face turned from confusion, to utter disbelief and shock.

“We want you to know there’s a whole community that loves your family and wanted to rally around you,” Brock Aiken said.

Sarah, a mom to five, began to tear up. She’s been without a family vehicle for the past month.

But even worse, she’s been without her husband, and her kids have been without their dad, Reino Kerttula.

“When the family was driving down St. George Easter night, they were in a horrible rollover accident,” explained Jeff Aiken, who is the couple’s brother-in-law by marriage to Sarah’s sister.

Jeff Aiken previously recounted the crash to KSL TV, explaining how a deer caused the SUV to roll and land in oncoming traffic. He described how Reino was trying to rescue his children from the upside-down SUV as it sat in the middle of I-15, when he was hit by another vehicle.

“My brother-in-law ended up passing away from his injuries,” Jeff Aiken said.

Sarah and Reino Kerttula, with four of their five children (Courtesy: Kerttula Family)

Hearing that Sarah and the family’s used SUV was totaled, a few businesses chipped in to make sure a car payment didn’t stack on top of funeral and medical bills.

“It’s terrible,” said Doug Thorn, general sales manager at Murdock Hyundai Lindon. “And if we can help to soften the blow a little bit by taking the car needs out of the equation, we’re happy to do it.”

Keystone Construction and Guild Mortage also helped fund the SUV.

Sitting down behind the steering wheel, Sarah looked around at all the features. Her daughter stood in the middle back seat, looking up.

“Mom look up. It’s a sunroof!” she said.

At times, Sarah sobbed into her hands as she sat there.

The whole family walked around the vehicle, taking in what this meant to her.

“Just blown away by the sheer generosity of total strangers,” Brock Aiken said.

Sarah got out, looking at Brock, surprised and speechless.

“I just never, ever imagined,” she said, wiping her eyes.

As Sarah cried tears of gratitude, Brock Aiken said it’s going to be the biggest help in the world for Sarah.

“I knew it was going to shock her… but this was just so much better than I had imagined,” he said. “I know how much it means to her, and how much it’s going to change things for her family.”

Brock Aiken set up a GoFundMe* to help Sarah with medical bills, funeral costs, and as Sarah navigates life with the kids. Murdock Hyundai said the Palisade will come with free maintenance for five years and a warranty for 100,000 miles, so that Sarah doesn’t have to worry about any car costs for years.

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

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Utah County family gifted SUV after father died saving kids from crash