OWEN COUNTY, Ind.– For the first time, we’re hearing from the mother of two young children killed by a falling tree in Owen County last year. The family is putting up a billboard in their children’s honor to remind Hoosiers to report decaying trees after strong storms.  

“They were best of friends, they really were,” said Crystal Clark, mother to 8-year-old Ziva and 9-year-old Xander.

“Xander was my sweet kid. I think that’s due to all the cinnamon rolls I ate when I was pregnant with him. He was always super sweet, kind at heart, never wanted to disappoint anybody.”

“Ziva was my firecracker, I had a lot of hot sauce when I was pregnant with her, so I think that’s why she came out so spicy. She was always a straightforward kid. She had a lot of confidence in everything she did.”

“They really were the perfect complement of each other.”

One of the siblings’ favorite things to do was be outside. “Every weekend we were at a campground,” Clark said.

The Clark family was at Indian Oaks Campground in Taylor Township in April of 2022 when tragedy struck.

“We had just finished lunch and I thought ‘Hey, let’s go for a golf cart ride,’” Clark said. “Our friends were by the fishing hole and we were going to join them when we got back. I thought ‘Let’s just go for one more ride and come back.’ And we didn’t.”

Xander and Ziva were riding in a golf cart with their parents when strong winds toppled a dead tree, which fell and hit them.

“We knew they were gone instantly,” Clark said.

Clark said she and her husband are living every parent’s worst nightmare.

“As a parent, you think of so many ways that your child can be hurt,” Clark said. “You think of them falling out of a tree and getting hurt, but you never think of a tree falling onto them. Not only taking one, but both.”

She and her husband are determined to turn their pain into purpose.

“Every day, my husband and I get out of bed for them,” Clark said. “Every day we try to do something to make them proud. They never knew parents that gave up, so we want to make sure we don’t give up on them now.”

“We don’t want anybody else to feel the pain and tragedy that we go through every day, so we wanted to bring awareness to something that people don’t really think about ever,” Clark said.

They’re reminding Hoosiers about the importance of checking their trees for decaying limbs or erosion, especially after severe weather.

“Spending a little money just to make sure they are okay is well worth it,” Clark said.

The family is putting up a billboard near the campground to share their message.

“We just want to help save someone else,” Clark said. “We don’t want anyone else to feel this.”

The billboard is expected to go up sometime next week. Clark hopes it will serve as a reminder to check your trees after storms, heavy rains and windy days. You could save a life!