RICHLAND — Brennen Davidson Metzger is a miracle boy. That's what his family calls the 3-year-old, who's thriving after surviving an accident two months ago that robbed him of his parents.
Brennen's parents, Heather Davidson, 27, of Richland, and Stephen "Steve" Lee Metzger II, 30, of Kennewick, were killed Nov. 28 when a pickup going the wrong way on Interstate 82 in dense fog collided head-on with their car.
While dealing with their own grief, surviving family members also have had to help Brennen adjust to the loss of his parents. He's now living with his aunt and uncle, Michelle and Josh Herrin of Kennewick, and their young son and daughter.
Brennen has been adjusting well, his family says, but marks of the accident remain. He still has a scar across his forehead, where doctors used 60 stitches to repair a gash from the wreck, said Steve's mother, Renea Metzger of Kennewick.
While they hope the scar fades, Heather's mother, Karen Davidson of Richland, said they want to help Brennen keep memories of his parents alive.
Brennen has a picture of his mom and dad in his new bedroom, and photos of him and his parents are scattered throughout the house.
He hasn't forgotten them.
One day while Brennen was sitting at the dining room table, said Steve's sister, Michelle Herrin, he looked up to the sky and called out, "Momma, momma."
When Herrin asked him what he was doing, Brennen said he was talking to his mom, who was in heaven with the angels.
At the time of the accident, Brennen and his parents were living at the Davidsons' home. Heather, a medical assistant, had been helping care for her father, Mark, who had a stroke about two years ago.
Steve, who served five years in the Marines, had recently finished a degree in renewable energy technology and was working at Amazon.com in Kennewick. He and Heather were looking for an apartment to share.
Brennen moved in with the Herrins on Dec. 27, and Michelle Herrin said he's been adjusting well to his new home and new daycare.
He's also gone from being an only child to one of three, she said. Brennen now gets to share with cousins Aubrey, 4, and Jack, 2.
"Aubrey and Jack welcomed him with open hearts," she said.
Karen Davidson said she knows Steve and Heather would be happy with the decision to have Michelle and Josh Herrin, who is a financial adviser, become Brennen's guardians.
"(Brennen's) very happy there," she said. "He has Jack and Aubrey to play with."
Aubrey's comment was, "This is Brennen's forever home," said Renea Metzger.
Michelle Herrin said she hopes to complete the legal guardianship process in March.
Steve and Heather's families aren't the only ones who lost a loved one in the crash.
Marco De La Mora, 26, of Pasco, the driver of the wrong-way vehicle, also was killed in the five-vehicle collision near the Dallas Road exit on I-82.
The Washington State Patrol has said it may never be clear how De La Mora ended up going on the wrong way on I-82 that night. Tests showed he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
His family has said De La Mora was a diabetic and could have been suffering from a medical issue that caused him to become disoriented driving in the dense fog.
Mark Davidson said he hopes officials will be able to find out how the accident happened so something can be done to prevent a similar tragedy for another family.
He also wants to encourage people to make sure they correctly use child car seats. Brennen's car seat was installed just right, he said.
"It kept our little grandson here with us," he said.
Brennen was in the only portion of the car that was undamaged, said Steve Metzger, Steve Metzger II's father. "There was divine intervention that came down and protected that child," he said.
Although the Metzger and Davidson families were already close before the accident, Steve Metzger said they've become closer as they cope with a tragedy that could have torn them apart.
They are supporting each other as they heal and face the realities of their loss, including the funeral arrangements, insurance claims, their estates and the changes to Brennen's life, he said.
The families said they have been overwhelmed with the support and compassion the Tri-City community has given them.
That support has included generous donations to a Community First Bank account that helped pay some of Brennen's needs. The family is grateful for those donations and for the bank, which set up the account.
And when the Metzgers returned from Spokane, where they stayed while Brennen was treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center, Renea Metzger said they found their front porch full of food.
At every turn, the family said, they have been offered compassion and support, including an attorney helping with insurance claims, a counselor working with Brennen, co-workers, strangers and a Washington State Patrol officer who responded to the crash.
"We wanted everyone to know that we appreciate the care and compassion," Renea Metzger said.