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Moorhead man raising funds to ship remains of 6 men killed in I-29 crash

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - A Moorhead man is raising funds to ship home the remains of the six men who died in a crash here on Dec. 26.

"I've had friends who lost parents and loved ones on the holidays, so when the holidays roll around you're reminded every year," said Randy Kremer, who started the fundraiser. "I just felt really bad for those people and thought I could do something."

Martin Zuniga, 47, of Republic, Mo., his brother, Jose Isabel Avila, 54, and Mayolo Lopez, 51, Albino Galicia Martinez, 43, and Epitacio Acosta Padron, 50, Springfield, Mo., and Herson Orellana, 34, of Nixa, Mo., were killed when the truck they were riding in crossed the median and was struck by a semi on Interstate 94 west of Jamestown.

Kremer got the idea for setting up a fund while driving to work at Essentia Health in Fargo, where he's a nurse anesthetist.

He set out an envelope with a note on Saturday and had collected $75 for the cause in a few hours.

After help from fellow employees, he eventually ended up at Wells Fargo where he created an account anybody can donate to, named The Jamestown Accident Victims Donation Fund.

Kremer read a Forum article from the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo., that said several of the men were parishioners at their church. It also said one was a community member there for 25 years and started his own business.

He then got in touch with the reporter in Springfield who got him in touch with the son of Zuniga.

"He was just plain thankful," Kremer said. "He was sad of course with his loss, and he said his grandmother and uncle have been killed in a car accident earlier this year, too."

Kremer called creating the fund his "Christian duty."

"I was just really surprised at how easy this was to do," Kremer said of the starting the fund. "It took a half-hour of my life and a couple of phone calls and it happened."

Three of the six bodies will be transported to El Patol, Guanajuato, Mexico, for funeral services. The cost is roughly $3,500 per body, according to Gary Haut, co-owner of Haut Funeral Home in James-town.

The other three will be shipped back to Missouri.

Shipping remains internationally isn't a common occurrence in Jamestown, Haut said. It requires paperwork to be filled out, then sent to the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul, where it will be translated and sent to Mexico.

"(It's) a lot of paperwork, and we're in the process of doing that right now," Haut said.

Each funeral home in town received two bodies.

Three bodies were already picked up by a transport company contracted by a funeral home in Missouri.

"This is pretty rare we have international (cases) like this," said Sgt. Josh Rude of the North Dakota Highway Patrol. "I think what they're experiencing now, there can be a bit of a hang up to get the bodies back."