Benefit Planned For SXSW Victims With Chicago Ties

Indiana natives lived and worked in Chicago from 2008 to 2010

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A drunk driver slammed into a crowd of people just outside the large Austin, Tex., music festival, injuring more than 20 people. Evan West, 28, was severely injured, and his wife, 27-year-old Jamie West, was one of the three killed. The couple's Chicago friends are banding together to help. (Published Friday, Mar 21, 2014)

    The tragic scene at South By Southwest last week still hits close to home for workers and patrons at Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park.

    A drunk driver slammed into a crowd of people just outside the large Austin, Tex., music festival, injuring more than 20 people. Evan West, 28, was severely injured, and his wife, 27-year-old Jamie West, was one of the three killed.

    "It's painful," Brettly Kawaguchi, the couple's former coworker, said. "It's one of the worst things that could happen to him and his wife."

    Friends are now raising money for Jamie's funeral and Evan's recovery, including rehabilitation and legal representation. A fund was set up where donations can be made, and a benefit is being planned at Heartland Cafe and Red Line Tap.

    "I can't believe it," said Sarah Skinner, a close friend. "Evan loved music, Jamie loved music. They were going out to have fun, then this horrible thing that never should have happened, happened."

    Evan and Jamie West were Garrett, Ind., natives, but their relationship was rooted in Rogers Park where the couple lived and worked from 2008 to 2010. Evan was a server and bartender at Heartland and Red Line Tap, where he met some of his dearest friends.

    "Really good kid, really good small town guy," Kawaguchi said. "Really nice, caring, polite, mild-mannered

    "They were so in love," Skinner said. "They are opposite personalities, but their opposites really complement each other."
     
    The couple moved to Texas a few years back to be closer to family and have a fresh start but friends say they never would have imagined it would also be the place the two would be torn a part from such a tragic accident.

    "Him getting hurt was bad enough," Kawaguchi said, "but to now wake up and realize his wife is gone and he has to deal with this by himself."

    Family says Evan suffered head trauma, a broken leg, broken ribs and injuries to his organs.

    Kawaguchi said plans are in the works for the benefit in Chicago and possibly in connection with South By Southwest.

    "I hope it helps the family and Evan," said Tom Rosenfeld, managing partner of Heartland Cafe and Red Line Tap.

    Police say the driver in the crash was 21-year-old Rashad Owens of Killeen, Tex. Owens has been charged with capital murder.