The family of Diana Olidinchuk is reeling from the unlikely tragedy of a South Everett 17-year-old being killed by a falling tree. “I’m still in shock. I can’t get it out of my mind that she’s gone,” said Diana’s twin, Lilly Olidinchuk.
They were born four minutes apart on July 2, 1999, in Lynnwood, identical twins. All of 17 years old.
At 8 on Friday night, on a youth church retreat in the hills around Leavenworth, remembers Lilly Olidinchuk, “People pulled me out of my cabin and told me the news. I thought they were joking, that they were pranking me.”
The news was that her sister, Diana Olidinchuk, the younger one by those few minutes, had been killed by a falling tree.
The tragedy had taken place five hours earlier at Meadowdale Beach Park in Edmonds after high winds pummeled the region and torrential rain saturated the soil, a possible reason that the 50- to 75-foot Douglas fir snapped.
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With two people holding her hands and using a flashlight, Lilly walked in the woods until she could find cellphone reception.
“I’m still in shock. I can’t get it out of my mind that she’s gone,” said Lilly, who shared a bedroom with Diana in the family’s home in South Everett.
Her last conversation with Diana was around Friday noon. The two had a close bond.
Lilly had gotten up earlier for her Leavenworth trip and simply kissed the sleeping Diana on the cheek.
“You could have woken me up and hugged me,” chided Diana.
Later on Friday, Diana decided to go walking in the park with a half-dozen friends.
That’s when they heard “a loud snap,” authorities said.
One tree started to fall, then three others connected by the same root ball came crashing down.
The teens started to run, said Battalion Chief Jason Blachly of the Lynnwood Fire Department, but Diana was struck and killed instantly. The tree was massive and the teens couldn’t lift it off her.
Diana’s family includes her twin sister; her father, Valeriy, who works in a warehouse; her mom, Tonya, a certified nursing assistant; two older sisters; and a brother.
The twins were born in the U.S. after the family emigrated from southeastern Ukraine in 1998.
“My parents wanted a better life. They wanted to give the kids an opportunity, all that stuff that’s not possible in Russia,” said Eleonora Olidinchuk, 23, one of the older sisters.
On her Facebook page, Eleonora put up a photo that included Diana.
She wrote: “Baby girl, if only you knew how much we adore you! Our little angel. You put a lot of smiles on everyone’s faces. And that is how I choose to remember you. I have literally no words, don’t know how or what to feel.”
It was Eleonora who had to inform the parents of the accident.
“A cousin called me. She just starts crying hysterically, telling me my sister died,” Eleonora said.
At first Eleonora thought the cousin was talking about Lilly’s bus trip to Leavenworth.
No, no, it was Diana.
Then it was time to call the parents.
“Dad, Diana has been crushed by a tree. Don’t panic yet. Let’s go find out all the information. I was calling hospitals, the cops.”
And then authorities told her, “We’re coming to your house.”
“At first my mom cried hysterically, and then later, as it started sinking in a little bit, she calmed down, with crying moments here and there,” said Eleonora. “My dad was more in shock. It was at night that he started crying, ‘I won’t see her anymore. I won’t see her anymore.’ ”
The twins were enrolled at Marysville Mountain View High School. That allowed them to essentially be home schooled and begin community-college classes.
Diana wanted to be a dental assistant. Lilly wants to be a radiologist assistant.
“They were inseparable,” said Eleonora. “Same bedrooms, shared some of the same clothes.”
Lilly said her sister was always the more outgoing one. “I’m more shy. I talk to people, but I have to get used to them.”
The family belongs to the Sulamita Slavic Church in Mukilteo, a Pentecostal church. A “goodbye ceremony” is planned at the church Wednesday, Eleonora said, and a funeral on Thursday. The time has not been set.
Lilly got home late Friday night. To keep her company, Eleonora slept in Diana’s bed.
“It didn’t feel the same,” said Lilly.
Eleonora keeps thinking about the odds of a tree falling on her sister.
“Unbelievable. What kind of death is that?” she said.