NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - It's been three months since Amber Sandvig was accused of a DWI crash that killed her 6-year-old daughter. Now, the family in the SUV that Sandvig allegedly hit is talking about their recovery.
"It's been hell. It's completely devastated our entire family: financially, physically, emotionally," said 25-year-old Julie Payne, of New Bern.
She and her husband, Mike Payne, were traveling in their SUV when they were hit head-on by a car on Brices Creek Road in Craven County on Feb. 22. Investigators said 24-year-old Amber Sandvig caused the crash when she crossed the center line. Sandvig's 6-year-old daughter, Alanna Garris, died in the wreck; her 2-year-old son, Allen "Blaze" Garris, was injured. Sandvig herself faces DWI and several other charges.
Both of Julie's legs were broken in that crash. Doctors said they weren't sure if she would ever walk again. Now, eight surgeries and $8 million later, the mother of three said she is still having a hard time adjusting to her injuries.
"I am 25 years old and I am in a wheel chair. If [my daughter] goes and skins her knees on the concrete, I can't run out there and kiss it," Julie said.
The Paynes told NewsChannel 12 they were on their way to pay their utility bill and go out on "date night" when the wreck happened. Julie said she still remembers the moments after the deadly accident.
"I heard Amber screaming, 'Somebody please save my babies,'" Julie said.
Two of Julie's children are the same age as Amber Sandvig's 6-year-old daughter, Alanna, who died shortly after the wreck.
"I never met [Alanna] But from what I've seen in pictures, she was absolutely gorgeous," Julie said.
Julie told NewsChannel 12 she is just lucky that all her children are safe. She is also hopeful that one day, she will fully recover.
"I just say my prayers every day that things will work out and they'll be able to save this leg and that one day, whether if it's with a limp or with scars or whatever, that I'll be able to walk again," Julie said.
The Payne family said they expect medical expenses to cost them close to $1 million. Those who wish to help with their recovery can make donations at any Wells Fargo Bank for the "benefit of the Payne family."