Dad, grandmother killed traveling to hospital for baby’s birth

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A first-time mom celebrating the birth of her child learns terrible news from the hospital staff: her mother and her fiancé were killed in a car crash as they drove to the hospital to see the new baby and mom.

Jeremiah was born Saturday at 8 lbs, 22 inches long. Four hours before he was born, his father and grandmother died in the crash while rushing to the hospital.

“I don’t want to let him out of my sight,” Crystal Matrau–Belt told FOX17. “He has my lips, for sure, but he looks like his dad.”

Jeremiah wasn’t supposed to arrive this early, but his mom’s high blood pressure kept her in the hospital on Friday. Then on Saturday doctors decided a C-section was best.

The baby’s father, Emil Skokan III, 34. was home with his future mother-in-law, Peggy Nichols, 53, preparing for the baby’s arrival.

“That was our plan, is he was going to just stay at home, get things ready, because we didn’t know it would be right then and there,” said Matrau-Belt.

Jeremiah would be their first baby together and her mother’s first biological grandchild.

On Saturday, Matrau-Belt made the call from the hospital that it was time. She remembers her fiance’s last words:  “That he loved me and that he’d be here shortly.”

Her fiance lost control of a car on S. 26th Street near Cork Street in Comstock Township and hit a tree. They died in the crash at 4 p.m., four hours before Jeremiah was born. Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Paul Matyas said speed was a significant factor in the crash.

While Crystal was back in her hospital room recovering,  her dad, stepdad and stepmom told her the news.

“I just remember all their faces, and I knew something was wrong,” Matrau-Belt said.  “I just didn’t know how bad it was, and that’s when I was told that they both died in a car accident on their way over here.”

“All I can remember is just trying to think that what they were saying was like, you know, they were just kidding, lying. I didn’t want to believe it,” she continued.

Now, as she prepares to leave the hospital, she’s torn between joy and grief.

“It’s a hard balance?  Being so happy and excited to be a mother and holding him and grieving that his dad’s not here, his grandma’s not here, just having to battle back and forth grieving for the both of them and trying to be happy and excited for him,” Matrau-Belt said.  “I know that once I leave the hospital, that’s when things will start to become real, and having to deal with everyday life is when it’s really going to hit me.”

She wants Jeremiah to remember his grandmother as a woman who would have done anything for him and his father as a man who couldn’t wait to raise him.