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Distracted to death

CROSBY--Ahead of their prom on Saturday, Crosby-Ironton High School students listened raptly to a man who warned of the deadly consequences of driving distracted.

Crosby-Ironton High School junior Hillary Holmvig listens to Matt Logan of Byron speak at the school Thursday. Logan's teenage daughter died in 2012 as result of car crash in which she was texting while driving. (Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls)
Crosby-Ironton High School junior Hillary Holmvig listens to Matt Logan of Byron speak at the school Thursday. Logan's teenage daughter died in 2012 as result of car crash in which she was texting while driving. (Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls)

CROSBY-Ahead of their prom on Saturday, Crosby-Ironton High School students listened raptly to a man who warned of the deadly consequences of driving distracted.

For most of Matt Logan's presentation Thursday in Mayberry Auditorium, the slightest rustle of clothing or stifled cough sounded like an explosion, so quiet were the teenagers in the audience.

Logan's daughter Deej was killed in a car crash the first day of her senior year in 2012. As she was writing a text while driving, she rear-ended a school bus.

Her father found out about the crash randomly, when he drove on the same road where it had happened near Byron. After he reached the crest of a small hill, he saw the crash site below him.

Deej was not killed instantly in the crash. She was taken to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, but her injuries were so severe that even the staff at the world-renowned facility were unable to save her.

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One slide of Logan's presentation was a selfie Deej had taken the morning of the day she died. Another slide was a beautiful posed photograph of a smiling Deej on the left, contrasted on the right with an unsettling post-crash closeup of her face. The crash photo showed a huge purple bruise on her left eye, and deep gashes covering her forehead, her neck in a brace.

Logan also took out Deej's phone and showed it to the audience. It made it through the crash without a scratch, and still worked perfectly, he said.

"Distracted driving is 100 percent a choice that we make," he said. "My daughter chose to text. It was a choice. She didn't have to."

Logan estimated that he has given talks about distracted driving to about 50 schools since the crash. He also told Deej's story last year to Brainerd High School seniors the day before their prom.

Following the presentation Thursday, Logan took questions from the high schoolers. After some initial reluctance to speak up, they came forward.

The first question: What was the topic of Deej's last text?

Logan answered that he and his wife had decided nobody would ever be told what Deej had been trying to say, or who she had been trying to send the message to.

"Here's why," he said. "It happened. She didn't survive. What good is it going to do, to tell the person it was intended for? It might change their life in a more significant way than it already did."

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Did he still text and drive today, even after the crash?

"Not since," he said. "But I'm still tempted to do it, I truly am."

Juniors Kyja Lindahl and Hillary Holmvig sat near the front of the audience during the talk, and reacted to it afterward.

"I thought it was really powerful," Lindahl said. "Really moving."

They had both texted and driven, though. For them, it usually happens when they get a text or Snapchat when they're on the road and feel the need to respond. Almost everyone they knew in their class succumbs to the temptation too, they said.

But would the two try to do it less, after what they had seen Thursday?

"Definitely."

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser .

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EDIT: This article has been edited to correct Matt Logan's name.

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