Illustration by Cat Frink

The family and friends of  Lane Community College student Brandon Stansell are grieving after his death from a car accident on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The incident took place around 3:20 a.m., just west of Leaburg, Oregon, about thirty minutes away from Stansell’s home in Eugene. Investigators say fatigue may have played a part in the accident. No other vehicles were involved.

Stansell and his girlfriend, Arianna Shields-Nguyen, were driving home from a long day of hiking the South Sister summit just outside of Bend, Oregon when the crash took place.

“After the wreck I only remember waking up in the ditch disoriented and cold,” Shields-Nguyen said. “I did see him on the ground and that’s the last I remember until I woke up in the hospital.”

Shields-Nguyen was taken to Riverbend hospital. The accident left her with six broken ribs, a cracked vertebrae and a broken knuckle.

Stansell recently graduated Sheldon High School and studied electrical work at Lane, with dreams of being a civil engineer in the U. S. Army.

The Stansell family told KEZI that the two had met at Jerry’s Home Improvement Center where he was employed. They also reported that Stansell loved to watch sunsets. In fact, he took Shields-Nguyen to Sisters to watch the sunset and ask her to be his girlfriend.

Arianna Shields-Nguyen (left) and Branden Stansell at South Sister on Sept. 27, the night before the accident.Courtesy of Arianna Shields-Nguyen
Arianna Shields-Nguyen (left) and Branden Stansell at South Sister on Sept. 27, the night before the accident.

“On the way it got really warm and I was overheated due to how much heat my dark hair was absorbing, and being the most gentle and caring guy he was, he pulled out one of his shirts for me to wrap around my head to block some of the heat,” Shields-Nguyen said.

It began to get late and they decided to stop before reaching the very top of the mountain. This is when Stansell asked the question.

“We came across a slate of snow near the top where I was eager to lay down. We caught our breathe and chilled our water in the snow and of course had a little snowball fight.” Shields-Nguyen said. “When we finally reached a stopping point, he asked me how I would feel about being his girlfriend.”

She said yes, and before long they were making their way back down the mountain in the dark. The incline was a little much for Shields-Nguyen and Stansell helped her down.

“At that point and elevation it was getting cold and dark so we slipped on some more layers and began our descent. I held onto his hand as tight as possible while he led with a flashlight.”

When they got back to the truck they rested and looked at the stars before taking off back to Eugene.

Since the accident, Shields-Nguyen has been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. She remembers Stansell as being a caring, patriotic man who loved the outdoors.

“He took me out hiking, drives in the woods, stargazing, sunset-watching and he even taught me how to weld so we could build mounts for our vehicles to fly the American flag together,” Shields-Nguyen said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up in Stansell’s name in order to support his surviving family members.