Jesse Monongya, a rugged ex-Marine, was taught never to cry, to be strong. But he couldn't stop the tears Tuesday while telling reporters how his daughter had her beauty and spirit taken away in a fatal crash on Loop 101 nearly a year ago.
Scottsdale residents Stephanie Monongye, 20, and Christina Laux, 29, and Mesa resident Ruslan Kramarovsky, 26, died Aug. 1 when the pickup truck they were in plunged into a culvert adjacent to Loop 101 near the 90th Street exit.
Their bodies lay undiscovered for nearly six hours.
Monongya, whose last name is spelled differently than his daughter’s; Peggy Murphy, Monongye's mother; and Louise Lemke, Laux's mother, battled emotion as they unveiled a grass-roots organization and Web site intended to help prevent similar tragedies on the stretch of road in Scottsdale.
Loop 101 Safety and www.loop101safety.com were launched in remembrance of nine people killed on that stretch since May 2002, and to demand additional safety measures from the city and state.
"I just want you all to know from my heart, to lose a beautiful girl, it's been very hard for us," Monongya said in between pauses and tears. "It's an eternal nightmare."
Kramarovsky's family members, who live in Cleveland, sent a letter in support of the efforts, as did the family of another crash victim, Phillip Shirk.
The group is pressing for additional cable and concrete barriers, guardrails and patrol officers to enforce speed limits. It also wants better training for law enforcement officers who handle crashes.
"The clues as to the existence of Stephanie's pickup truck were there that night, but went unnoticed," Lemke said.
The Web site features remembrances of all nine victims, statistics on safety and crashes associated with the freeway and advice for the public to bring about change.
Reps. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Gary Pierce, R-Mesa, chairman of the Transportation Committee, offered their support.
"I strongly support reallocating scarce resources toward modifying and improving roads and freeways to make them safer," Pearce said.
"How many people have to die before state leaders stop talking and start doing something," Monongya said.
He criticized Scottsdale officials for advancing a $3.9 million loan to the Arizona Department of Transportation to expedite laying rubberized asphalt on Loop 101 and for spending $5 million for public art from Scottsdale Road to just north of 90th Street.
"I'm an artist, but I place safety over aesthetics," Monongya said. "The same amount of money could fund additional officers."
Scottsdale resident David Ryan McKinney, 22, was indicted June 5 on three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault in connection with the deadly crash. On July 10 he surrendered to authorities at Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail in Phoenix after giving radio and television interviews.
Lori Slaybaugh lost her husband, Doug, to an Oct. 3 crash on Loop 101. He was driving home from work when a car traveling at a high rate of speed pulled in front of him and then slammed on the brakes, Slaybaugh said.
She said her husband swerved to miss the car and struck a barrier, rolling his car several times and eventually dying.
She has written letters to public officials, asking for more safety measures. She is considering filing a wrongful-death lawsuit.
"We've got to hold these people accountable," Slaybaugh told the Tribune on Monday. "They can't just kill people."