Matthew Stabley

Virginia Teen's Heart Broken, Body Mending After Crash With Food Truck That Killed His Mother

A Virginia teenager critically injured in a crash that killed his mother says his heart is broken but his body his mending.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, paid a visit to Inova Children’s Hospital Tuesday and wound up in an eighth floor room where 17-year-old Ben Kaplan is spending his 54th day since he was flown to the hospital from the crash scene in critical condition.

“Mind my asking why you are in hospital?” Northam asked Ben.

“A man crashed his car when my mom was driving me to work,” Ben answered. “And I lost my mom.”

On Sept. 8 about 4:50 p.m., a man driving a bus converted into a food truck called Dane’s Great American Hamburger ran a stop sign on Watson Road and slammed into the Kaplans’ Audi station wagon on Evergreen Mills Road, killing 39-year-old Erin Kaplan and injuring Ben, his two sisters and his grandmother.

Only Ben remains hospitalized, but his improvement is remarkable to see.

“It's been tough,” he said. “I have a broken heart over the loss of my mother, but every day gets a little better, and I couldn’t do it without my grandma.”

He joked with Northam about how his hair is growing back around the staple scar circling his head.

"Do you like my mullet?" he asked.

The community has embraced the Kaplan family, raising tens of thousands of dollars to help with medical costs. Ben's sisters attended a recent volleyball game fundraiser.

In spite of his pain and loss, Ben is grateful.

“It's meant the world to me,” he said. “The man who hit our car, he taught me about the evil in the world, but seeing all these kind actions has really taught me that the world can be very nice, too.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation is fortifying the shoulder to improve safety at Watson and Evergreen Mills roads, and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is hitting the area with a special enforcement campaign.

"Right now, it's very very difficult, and we have so much traffic in this community," Sheriff Mike Chapman said.

Deputy Garry Epple pointed out speed control signs that also gather data about how people drive and traffic volume so they can determine the best times to patrol.

"I just don't want anyone to go through what I've gone through," Ben said. "Its' really hard."

Ben gets out of the hospital Tuesday. He's moving to a rehabilitation facility.

No charges have been filed in the crash.

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