July 6, 2014

Full circle: Crash victim reunites with Keller High classmate

Paige Owens, now 22, reconnected with the man who would become her fiance on Facebook.

Paige Owens has been paralyzed since 2007, when a car accident in Wise County killed three of her friends and left her unable to walk, with limited use of her arms.

Then a freshman at Keller High School, Owens spent months in Tarrant County hospitals, unable to return to classes.

The one-vehicle wreck in which alcohol was involved killed Michael Fresch, 16, of North Richland Hills; driver Ryan Lowe, 17, of Springtown; and 14-year-old Morgan Moss of Boyd on the morning of Aug. 4, 2007. Another passenger, 15-year-old Pricilla Hatcher of Fort Worth, was seriously injured.

Today Owens, 22, is engaged to a man she barely knew at Keller High School, someone who caught up with her years later, on social media. Owens doesn’t remember much about Bryan Bartz from school days.

“He was in my algebra class in high school, but he didn’t say much to me back then,” she said. “He was dating a friend of mine.”

Bartz said he didn’t know what became of Owens after the wreck. He graduated from Keller High School, took a few college courses and lived in St. Louis for a year, then moved to Oklahoma City.

“After the accident, she fell off the face of the earth and no one heard from her,” he said. “I just stumbled across her name on Facebook.”

The years after the accident were not easy for Owens.

She had a broken neck that required spinal fusion surgery at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. After weeks at the hospital, she went to the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas.

Owens had no movement in her legs or arms, and fainting spells. Unable to attend school, she eventually got her GED and moved with her family to Ardmore, Oklahoma, then to Oklahoma City.

After several more surgeries and years of therapy, Owens has limited use of her arms, but she can’t use her fingers. She uses a wheelchair and still takes medications for fainting spells.

Owens said they wrote each other on Facebook, texted a few times and started calling each other.

“Once we started calling each other, I knew we would be going to the [Texas] State Fair, so I asked him if he wanted to meet us there, and he did,” Owens said.

On Oct. 7, 2012, Bartz asked Owens to be his girlfriend at the fair in Dallas.

“It took a lot of persuading her to say yes,” he said.

After a year of courting, Bartz proposed to Owens on Oct. 7, 2013, when they were at the State Fair again.

“She knew I was going to ask, but she didn’t know when,” he said. “As we were leaving, we stopped before we left the grounds, I got on one knee and asked.”

Her paralysis didn’t matter, he said.

“I fell in love with her. I didn’t care what she couldn’t do physically. Some days I do wish I could know what she has had to go through all these years.”

Owens is planning a June 27, 2015, wedding and has an obsession with getting her favorite recording artist, Miranda Lambert, to attend.

“I just want her to come,” Owens said in a recent telephone interview from Oklahoma City. “I’m not asking her to sing or anything like that. I just hope she shows up.”

She started a Facebook page, “Miranda Lambert Please Come To My Wedding,” and she’s been on Twitter with her invitation.

As of Sunday, Owens had not heard from Lambert or her publicist.

Marcel Pariseau, Lambert’s publicist in Los Angeles, said in an email that they had not heard about the invitation.

“The summer months have typically been the time that Miranda tours around the country,” Pariseau said in the email. “I foresee this being the same during the summer of 2015.”

Owens said Sunday that she wasn’t surprised.

“I am going to keep trying to get her to come and will continue asking through social media,” she said. “Maybe since they have almost a year’s notice they can make it happen.”

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