Hundreds remember nurse for her passion for children

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PORTLAND – Hundreds of people filled the Woodfords Congregational Church on Friday morning for the funeral of University of Southern Maine student Laura Vogel, who was killed last week in the Dominican Republic.

She was remembered as a nurse and a friend.

Vogel, 27, who lived in Standish, was killed in a truck accident while visiting the Caribbean country with other nursing students from USM. The group of 70 students, faculty and other health care workers was participating in an advanced pediatric nursing program, part of a twice-annual university outreach to provide personal care and health education in rural villages there.

One of Vogel’s traveling companions, Heidi Towes, said, “It wasn’t until the very last second that we realized, as the driver tried to maneuver the wheel to avoid the villagers, that we were going over the other side.”

The women were riding in the last of three pickup trucks heading for a remote village near the northern coastal city of Puerto Plata.

The terrain was “very rough and very rocky,” with few paved roads, Towes explained. The truck started to head up a steep, rocky hill but didn’t make it, forcing the driver to back up and try again.

Towes said a group of local residents had gathered to watch them pass. The spectators were dangerously close to the left rear side of the truck as it backed up, forcing the driver to swerve to avoid them, Towes explained, sending it over a ravine on the other side of the road.

“We were all not really paying attention (to the ravine), focusing on the villagers It was just an accident. There was nothing that could have changed, I think, what was going to happen,” Towes, who was not injured, said.

Vogel died at the scene, Towes said. In addition to her being a student at USM, she was a nurse at Maine Medical Center.

Two other nursing students were injured in the crash, but are expected to recover from their injuries.

“She was brave enough to go far, far away from her home and her country, and her family, which was very important to her, to do work that was also very important to her. She truly died doing something that she felt was very important to do,” Towes said of her friend.

“I think Laura characterized what it’s like to be a nurse. She had the opportunity to help tons and tons of children (while she was in the Dominican Republic). Kids were her passion.”

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