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A much-anticipated family vacation ended in heartbreak recently when Cecelia Buitrago de González, 79, of Bogotá, Colombia, was killed by a woman with a history of drunk-driving convictions in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Buitrago de González was the mother of eight children, three boys and five girls, and the grandmother of 11. Members of the family had traveled to Niagara Falls and then to New York City to see a Broadway show. When they returned to Charlotte, where four of her daughters live, a vehicle driven by Kelly Ann Conkin, 23, of Clover, South Carolina, crossed the median of the road and slammed into the car that contained the Colombian matriarch, her daughter Sonia, as well as Sonia's husband and daughter.
Buitrago de González was killed; the others were hospitalized with relatively minor injuries.
“My mom was a very generous person. She had a heart for charity, and she instilled in us to help others,” Pilar Gonzalez-Long, another of Cecelia's daughters, told Fox News Latino recently.
“When we were little, we were taking care of a man who was deaf. My mother met him and discovered he was trying to sell his organs to take care of his five children. She brought food to him, and she would take us so we could learn about giving,” Gonzalez-Long remembered.
On Monday, Conkin, who suffered minor injuries, was discharged from the Carolinas Medical Center and transferred to the custody of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, where she was arrested for second-degree murder, felony death by motor vehicle, felony serious injury by motor vehicle, reckless driving and possession of marijuana. She had been charged with driving while impaired while in the hospital.
Conkin has previously been convicted on a DWI charge in 2014 as well as two driving under the influence cases dating back to 2011, one of which resulted in a conviction.
Buitrago de González worked at a Sears and Roebuck in Bogotá for years until her retirement. She opened a boutique sewing clothes from scratch, her daughter told FNL, until her business boomed and she was able to hire seamstresses to do the sewing. She also gave back to the community, volunteering at Colombia orphanages and at other children’s organizations.
The family was planning to travel to Colombia in January to celebrate Buitrago de González's 80th birthday.
“We’re still going to go,” Gonzalez-Long said. "We’ve bought the tickets, and we’ll honor her life and the many people she helped. She was like a second mother to so many. She was very loved."
About the woman who was charged with killing their beloved mother, the sisters say they hope the tragedy is an example to others.
“You might not think that this can happen, but it happened to our family,” Gonzalez-Long said. "We know that God is a fair God, and there will be justice. We’re going to forgive the way that God and our mom would have taught us to."