Real Names: Patricia Anne Hintz, others unrevealed
Case: Lost Family
Location: Abilene, Texas
Date: December 29, 1961
Details: On December 29, 1961, army wife Darlene Alfano, her three daughters, her friend Ethel "Pinky" Johnson, and Pinky's two children left their homes in Abilene, Texas, to go on a trip into town. At around 2PM, the group was on Shelton Street headed north towards the center of town when their car stalled on some train tracks. An approaching train from Dallas hit it, and the car was torn to shreds, its roof torn off. Tragically, Darlene and two of her daughters, Patricia and Rosalinda, were killed, along with Pinky's son Marty. Pinky, her other son, and Darlene's third daughter LaDonna survived. However, LaDonna was seriously injured and doctors feared that she would not recover; her father Fred had lost his wife and two of his children in one day.
Despite catastrophic injuries to her face and head, LaDonna began to recover. Fred was then forced to tell LaDonna what had happened to her sisters and mother. He told her that her sisters were in Heaven and her mother was an angel. LaDonna was comforted by this, but as she grew up, she wondered why she had survived but they did not. She later felt that she survived in order to motivate her father to keep living.
Over the years, LaDonna went through several facial reconstructive surgeries; however, she could never bring back the memories of her mother Darlene. Compounding this frustration was the fact that Fred had only met Darlene's family a few times and had since lost contact with them. LaDonna believes that after the accident, it was too painful for her mother's family to stay in contact with her and Fred.
She now hopes to find her mother's family so that she can fill in the remaining gaps of her life. She only has one clue about her mother's family: a letter that she had received from her maternal grandfather, which included a photograph of her maternal aunt, Patricia Anne Hintz.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 29, 1996 episode.
Results: Solved. Several of LaDonna's mother's relatives watched the broadcast and were soon put in contact with her. She was happy to speak to her Aunt Patricia, and was even more happy to learn that her maternal grandparents, Stanley and Gerta Hintz, were still alive and looking for her.
A few weeks later, LaDonna drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she was reunited with her Aunt Patricia Hofer, along with her maternal grandparents, and several other family members. Sadly, her eighty-six-year-old grandfather Stanley Hintz passed away shortly after the reunion. She later wrote a book about her experiences in "My Dance with Opa". LaDonna now lives in South Carolina and owns her own Hair and Beauty Salon.
- Auto-train crash settlement made
- Woman's miraculous reunion with her grandfather
- My Dance with Opa on Amazon.com