April 30, 2014

Fort Mill family adjusting to life after deadly crash

Michael Pobiega of Fort Mill lost his wife Jackie in an April 1 wreck on Doby’s Bridge Road. He and his two children are moving on the best they can.

Thursday marks a month since Michael Pobiega heard the sirens while swinging his children at the local park. A month since he couldn’t reach his wife on her phone, then received a call that still resonates.

The final report isn’t out on the wreck that killed his wife on Doby’s Bridge Road, but Pobiega isn’t waiting on it for closure.

“It doesn’t change the facts,” he said. “What happened, happened.”

According to South Carolina Highway Patrol, the two-car wreck occured at 5:36 p.m. April 1. Jaclyn “Jackie” Pobiega, 36, was traveling west on Doby’s Bridge Road heading toward her home in Massey. She was wearing her seatbelt.

Pobiega died at 5:59 p.m. from injuries sustained during the wreck. The other driver, identified as a man from Indian Land, was not seriously injured, authorities said.

Lance Cpl. Gary Miller with South Carolina Highway Patrol said Monday morning there haven’t been any charges filed in the case.

“It's still pending and they are continuing to investigate that incident,” he said. “At this point nothing has been changed or upgraded.”

Miller didn’t have a guess as to when such a decision could come.

“It would be just that, a guess,” he said.

Michael Pobiega made it to the scene in time to see his wife’s car “destroyed,” the other driver’s nose bloodied. Pobiega doesn’t believe drugs or alcohol factored into what he thinks “just looks like a case of bad driving.”

Remembering Jackie

The Pobiegas are so “normal” a family, people often would ask for their everyman perspective on problems. She worked in media marketing for Continental Tire, he as a pilot for U.S. Airways Express. Their home and those on every side fits a profile — two mid-30s parents, two or three children.

“It’s Southern hospitality at its best,” Michael Pobiega said. “It’s support.”

They moved into Massey last September, and sold their previous home in the Steele Creek area of Charlotte in January. The Pobiegas took that money and paid off their last credit card, bought some decorations, set up the front porch.

“We got to sit in the porch furniture once,” Michael Pobiega said.

He recalls what his wife last told him, referencing two aviation pictures on the wall and some similar living room work.

“I just can’t believe how nice my room looks,” she told him.

Jackie was a wonderful wife, Michael said, and a better mother. The couple split parental duties for Bobby, 5, and Ellen, 2. Except when Michael flew overnight and left all the work to her for a few days. Something he appreciates more now.

“I already shrunk up one of my best shirts,” said Michael, who hates little in life like he does doing laundry. “I wasn’t real happy about that.”

Jackie worked as a journalist in Oklahoma several years back, a highlight coming with a local award for coverage of a meth lab bust.

“She had her picture in the meth lab,” Michael said.

In recent years the pair began settling into the jobs they’d wanted, and in the area they wanted for bringing young children up in school. Of late, normal was the “absolute happiest we’ve ever been in our marriage,” Michael said. Normal on the day of the wreck was a trip to the park for dad, a trip home for taco Tuesday for mom.

“Life intercedes,” he said. “It’ll never be normal. It’ll be different.”

Moving forward

Michael’s parents left last week after coming from the Cleveland, Ohio, area to help. Thomas Pobiega describes a difficult few weeks since the wreck.

“It’s even hard talking about it,” he said. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We didn’t know what to do.”

Helping two young children now without their mother came hardest.

“There isn’t a day goes by that we don’t break down a little bit,” Thomas Pobiega said.

Michael Pobiega believes the adjustment may be a little harder, at least right now, for the adults.

“They’re surprisingly well,” he said of the children. “They’re resilient. They adjust.”

On leave until summer, Michael still has to figure out what childcare and other arrangements will be needed. For now, he relies on daily tasks and the order they provide. He cooks. He works on the car. He even does laundry for the children, one he lovingly calls “possibly the dirtiest person alive.”

He relies on the crisis training learned in the military and aviation, on the extra work days in March he’d banked to spend more family time in April and May. He relies on his neighbors, who he only recently met but who are helping in ways he appreciates.

“It’s horrible,” Michael Pobiega said of what’s happened to his family, “but it brings everybody together.”

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