Tragic decision: Death was waiting at family party

09/26/1972 12:00 AM

09/06/2012 11:56 PM

Originally published Sept. 26, 1972

Warren Krier would have been 32 yesterday – but his family decided to celebrate Sunday. At Farrell’s.

They decided to go there with their best friends, from high school days, the Tony Martins. They would go there after a football game – and the Martins would take along their own children and the kids’ grandparents and an aunt and two cousins.

Eight-year-old Jennifer Ann Krier and her little brother, Brandon, 2, would certainly giggle while their father had to stand up with a straw hat on his head and blow out a candle. Everyone around would be singing “Happy Birthday” and the normal Farrell’s ballyhoo – sirens, bells, drums, and blinking lights – would bring the afternoon to a crescendo.

They probably would do it as they always do: “Over here we have Warren, who’s come in here with his family and friends to celebrate his – harruummph – birthday.” The Gay 90s-clad waiter would kid the 32-year-old celebrant.

But the candle was never lit. Instead, the flames at Farrell’s on Sunday would come from exploding jet fuel, and the sirens, from the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars.

Of the 17 people seated by the window at Warren Krier’s birthday party, 14 died. One is in critical condition, two satisfactory.

All Succumbed

The entire Krier family was wiped out: Warren, Sandra, 28, Jennifer and Brandon. Five of the Martins – Tony, 29, Sue, 28, Gregory, 6, Jeanene, 4, and Sean, 3, were killed. Mrs. Martin’s sisters’ children, Jeff Nash, 5, and gary, 2, were killed. So were the grandparents of the Martin and Nash children, Mr. And Mrs. Gene Lavine.

And a little friend of Jennifer’s from around the corner, Nancy Rodriquez, 8, died, too. For her, the birthday party was an extra treat. She finally got to be a pom pon girl at the football game they all attended earlier in the afternoon.

Chris Nash, 23, Jeff and Gary’s mother, is in critical condition. Steven Martin, 8, miraculously survived, possibly because the tiny lineman still had on his shoulder pads from the football game. His aunt, Cynthia Lavine, 12, lived through it, too, but no one can figure out exactly how.

Last evening – 24 hours after the worst air-ground accident in the nation – the streets on which the dead once lived and rose their bikes and mowed their lawns and shot the breeze about hunting and PTA and Bluebirds were uncommonly quiet. Knots of neighbors and playmates stood here and there around the one dark house on the street some still numb, some talking.

A few – like 6-year-old Kelly Randall who used to play hide ‘n seek and things like that Greg and Jeanene and Sean Martin on Idel Wild Way – took care of the tragedy in their own way.

“Greg is 6, Jeanene is 4 and Sean is 3,” she announced defiantly. “And all the rest are dead.”

Out in College Greens, on Merryibrook Drive where the Kriers lived, a light rain began falling in the evening. “Fluffy,” the family’s small Samoyed husky, was darting about the lawn in front of the light green house with dark green shutters – eating the cat’s food and generally enjoying a romp in the first storm of fall.

’We Used to Play ...’

Lance Reiners, 12, was standing with Kathy Patterson, also 12, on the lawn at 8700 Merribrook.

“We used to play all the time with Jennifer in that court over there ... you know, games, and we’d climb trees,” Lance said.

Kathy, who often babysat for Jennifer and Brandon, and her family had been to the air show Sunday. She heard all the sirens.

“First I thought it was because they were about to give out the prizes for the show,” she said. Then she saw the flames shoot up from Farrell’s. “I didn’t know the Kriers were in there.” She didn’t find out for sure until yesterday morning.

Inside the attractive tract home, two sleeping bags were neatly folded over a banister and two racing bikes were parked on the rug. Neighbors moved the bicycles inside when they heard the news.

Parked Scooter

Brandon’s pint-size scooter was parked against the wall in the family room by his fire truck, and there was a ragged brown teddy bear on the toy box, rsting on its face. Sunday morning’s paper was open on a chair and someone had placed Monday’s mail on the kitchen table.

“God Almighty, what do you do with these things?” asked Krier’s brother harry, as he stood by Brandon’s crib with the fat face of a comic alligator smiling overhead.

On the TV set was one of Warren’s birthday cards. “Some of the happiest times were the times you made happen,” it read.

Holly Sparks form across the street was out front.

“Jennifer was my friend,” she wanted it known. And tami Smallman – from a few doors down – was being called “the luckiest girl in the world.”

Fortunate Miss

She was supposed to have gone with the Kriers to the football game. She was a cheerleader for the 49er youth football team, but she didn’t get home from Sunday school on time.

“The coroner called me about midnight,” said her mother, Mrs. Bill Smallman, “and said, ‘Do you have a daughter named Tami?’ I said ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Where is she?’”

Tami’s name was on the cheerleader roster, and the coroner’s office was trying to match up names with bodies.

“I said, ‘She’s asleep in bed,’ but then we began to realize what was happening.”

Jennifer had called for Tami while she was at Sunday school. She also called another pom pon girl friend, Nancy Rodriguez.

The Kriers and the Martins were such good friends the kids called each other cousins.

Schoolmates

Sandy Creasy Krier and Tony Martin and Sue Lavine Martin had gone to school together at Hiram Johnson High. They had all grown up around the old State Fair ground.

On Idle Wild Way last night, three neighbors, Leland Meyer and Bruce and Pat Randall, were trying to get the Martins’ camping trailer into the driveway. Martin’s business – Morey’s Letterman sports emblem shop – had been going well lately, and the family bought a speedboat for water-skiing and the trailer for camping.

“Everything was for the kids,” says Meyer. “They were just a closely knit family that did everything together.”

When they found Sean in the rubble at Farrell’s the 3-year-old had on a new football outfit his father bought for him the day before. This didn’t surprise neighbors. It was normal for Tony to be out on the lawn. Throwing the football with his sons dressed in jerseys specially lettered by the Martin company.

Equipment Chief

Tony, a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, was equipment manager for the 49ers (his friend Warren Krier was league representative), and Sue Martin was head of advertising and selling.

“Did you know a plane went into Farrell’s?” asked 4-year-old Scott Meyer to anyone who would listen. Sunday morning he’d been playing with his friends Sean and Greg Martin.

The Martins had just put up a new Philippine mahogany door on their medium-size brick-and-brown wood house in the River Glade tract in Souht Sacrament. Tippy, their old female dog, is staying with neighbors. Steven, the sole survivor of the “happy – good neighbor” family – might go to live with his uncle, Mike, but no one is certain.

“He can take his lumps,” said Meyer. “Steve has a lot of endurance.”

Disneyland Out

Steve will turn nine next month. “His mother and father were going to take him to Disneyland,” said Pat Randall last night. “Just the three of them were going down.”

Out front of 7329 Idle Wild is the Lavine car. “Grandma and grandpa” had driven down from their brand new “small ranch with a horse” in Auburn early Sunday to see Steve play ball. The car will have to be moved.

The Lavine grandparents were always around, either at the Martins or at the Nashes, visiting or coming to get the grandkids for the day.

Lavine was a city fireman for 19 years. His father was a fireman for 20. His brother Richard still is.

“Both of the Lavines were lovely people who just loved all their grandchildren so much,” said Mrs. Warren Moffat, a neighbor of the young Nash family. “I know they were so happy about finally getting their place in the hills.”

Move Planned

The Nashes, both 23, -- the youngest family to be shattered by Sunday’s het crash – were junior high school sweethearts and sweethearts all through Hiram Johnson High. They married soon after graduation and right after that moved into 3661 57th St.

There’s a big red “Sold” sign on the front lawn now. The family was going to move out at the end of October to the Fruitridge area and, eventually, “out to the country” so the children could have horses.

“That Jeff was smart as a whip,” recalled Moffat, who helped put the 5-year-old’s toys into the garage when they learned he wasn’t coming home. “He’d come over and share his popsicles with me . . . sit right down and say ‘let’s talk’. He was quite a bit of company for me. He was my buddy.”

Roy Nash’s white pickup is not out in front of the modest, light-green stucco house. The young roofing company worker got back from a deer hunting trip Sunday to find his two sons dead and his wife in critical condition at the Sacramento Medical Center.

With Relatives

He has been with relatives since, although the house lights are still burning, and on the piano there are new photographs of Jeff and 2-year-old Gary.

“She was so proud of those pictures,” said Mrs. Moffat.

“They wee a beautiful, beautiful, happy family,” said next-door neighbor Mrs. Rusty Lunardi. “It just shouldn’t have happened to them.”

The Lunardi’s daughter, Janet, babysat for the children Friday so that Chirs Nash and her sister, Sue Martin, could go out to see “Fiddler on the Roof.” Mrs. Lunardi washed Jeff and Gary’s clothes yesterday “so Chris wouldn’t have to come home to that.”

Just the other day Jeff brought home from kindergarten a very special picture, Mrs. Lunardi recalled.

“He was so proud of starting school, and he’d drawn a picture of his mother, with all her long hair flowing down her back. I said to Chris, ‘Don’t ever throw that away. It’s going to mean so much to you some day.”

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