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Local News

Local Couple Caring for Toddler Son of Woman Killed in Santa Barbara Car Crash

Pair who run Mothers' Helpers nonprofit group were granted temporary custody of 1-year-old boy before Daniella Hearn was killed on Aug. 9

Daniella Hearn, 19, shown here with her son Lukas, was killed in a Santa Barbara car crash Aug. 9. A local couple has been taking care of Lukas since July. Click to view larger
Daniella Hearn, 19, shown here with her son Lukas, was killed in a Santa Barbara car crash Aug. 9. A local couple has been taking care of Lukas since July.  (Facebook photos)

Five days before a violent car accident on the Mesa in Santa Barbara claimed Daniella Hearn’s life,  temporary custody of the teenage mother’s 1-year-old boy was granted to the founder and executive director of Mothers’ Helpers, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping moms who need baby items to care for their children.

Robin Unander-La Berge and her husband, Dan La Berge, helped Hearn through their Santa Barbara-based organization by donating baby supplies to the 19-year-old in 2015.

Hearn, a Santa Barbara native, kept in contact with the organization on Facebook, but had never met the couple.

“Through that organization, I came in contact with Daniella, and all of it changed from there,”​ Unander-La Berge said. 

She noticed Hearn’s request for help on social media in May, asking people to help watch her son, Lukas, while she worked.

Unander-La Berge, a mother of two, reached out to help and that started the boy’s introduction into the La Berge family.

“We had a plan, and he was going to stay with us for only a few months,” Unander-La Berge wrote in a Facebook post. “The plan started to quickly slip away, and we agreed that we’d be his legal guardian until she could get things sorted out.”

In July, the La Berge family became temporary full-time caregivers of the child for Hearn, a Santa Barbara City College student who participated in the Single Parents Arriving Ready for College.

Temporary legal guardianship was appointed on Aug. 4, Unander-La Berge said, and a September hearing is scheduled to make the legal custody permanent. 

GoFundMe page has been created to raise money for Lukas' care and a trust fund for the child. 

Hearn was one of three people killed in an Aug. 9 collision on Cliff Drive. Hearn, driver Angel Luis Flores, 24, and rear-seat passenger Benjamin Samuel Rubio, 28, were all pronounced dead at the scene. 

Front-seat passenger Michael James Mendoza, 29, was critically injured in the accident. 

Authorities say the 1997 Lexus sedan was eastbound on Cliff Drive at a high rate of speed when it crashed, hitting a curb, a utility pole, a fire hydrant and a tree.

The accident remained under investigation by the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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