Real Names: Patricia Anne Hintz, others unrevealed
Case: Lost Family
Location: Abilene, Texas
Date: December 29, 1961
Details: On December 29, 1961, army wife Darlene Alfano, her three daughters, her friend, Ethel "Pinky" Johnson, and Pinky's two sons left their homes in Abilene, Texas, to go on a trip into town. At around 2pm, they were on Shelton Street headed north toward the center of town when their car stalled on a railroad crossing. An approaching train from Dallas hit it, and it was torn to shreds, its roof torn off. Tragically, Darlene and two of her daughters, Patricia and Rosalinda, were killed, along with Pinky's son, Marty. Pinky, her second son, and Darlene's third daughter, LaDonna. survived. However, LaDonna was seriously injured and doctors feared that she would not recover; her father, Fred, had lost his wife and two of his children in one day.
Despite catastrophic injuries to her face and head, LaDonna began to recover. Fred was then forced to tell her what had happened to her mother and sisters. He told her that her sisters were in Heaven and her mother was an angel. She was comforted by this, but as she grew up, she wondered why she had survived but they did not. She later felt that she did in order to motivate Fred to keep living.
Over the years, LaDonna went through several facial reconstructive surgeries; however, she could never bring back the memories of Darlene. Compounding this frustration was the fact that Fred had only met Darlene's family a few times and had since lost contact with them. She believes that after the accident, it was too painful for them to stay in contact with her and Fred.
She now hopes to find Darlene's family so that she can fill in the remaining gaps of her life. She only has one clue about them: a letter that she had received from her maternal grandfather, which included a photograph of her maternal aunt, Patricia Anne Hintz.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 29, 1996 episode.
Results: Solved. Several of Darlene's relatives watched the broadcast and were soon put in contact with LaDonna. She was happy to speak to her Aunt Patricia Hofer, and was even more happy to learn that her maternal grandparents, Stanley and Gerta Hintz, were still alive and looking for her.
A few weeks later, LaDonna drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she was reunited with her Aunt Patricia, along with Stanley and Gerta, and several other relatives. Sadly, Stanley passed away shortly after the reunion. She later wrote a book about her experiences in "My Dance with Opa". She now lives in South Carolina and owns her own Hair and Beauty Salon.
- LaDonna Alfano Update on Unsolved Archive
- Auto-train crash settlement made
- Woman's miraculous reunion with her grandfather
- My Dance with Opa on Amazon.com