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Jewish Journal

Accidental Death in Utah

A young girl is killed after her father falls asleep at wheel

by Ruth Stroud

September 17, 1998 | 8:00 pm

Orel in Hebrew means God's light. Orel Gigi was only 4 1/2 years old when she died in a car accident on Aug. 2, but to her parents and all who knew her, she was like her name -- a ray of divine light. "Her smile and outstretched arm towards anybody was magic, and a heart could not but surrender," wrote family friend David Meiron in a eulogy he delivered at Orel's funeral.

Orel was killed at the start of what was to be the happiest week of her young life. She was traveling to Utah with her father, Nahum Sagi, and dog Ginger. Nahum and his wife, Anat, both Israeli-born, had experienced financial problems, and Nahum had found a construction job in Utah, traveling home to Los Angeles on weekends to be with his wife and daughter. Orel was excited about spending a week with her father in Utah.

Aug. 2 was hot, and the car didn't have air conditioning. Nahum stopped to rest for two hours after they passed Las Vegas. Just 60 miles from their destination, he fell asleep at the wheel, and the car veered off the road and down a ravine. Orel, who wasn't wearing a seat belt was thrown through an open window and killed instantly. Nahum sustained a broken hand and minor bruises. The dog jumped from the car and ran away.

Anat at first refused to believe what had happened. Orel had called her from the road and told her "Ima, I love you from the bottom of my heart." It didn't seem possible that she was gone so suddenly.

Seven weeks later, the family is still in deep mourning for Orel. "She was the best friend of my 5-year-old son, Eliran," said Anat's sister, Galit Ambar. "He misses her so much."

Orel is buried in the Jewish cemetery, Shalom, in Sylmar. Without the help of Rabbi Amitay Yemini of Chabad of Los Angeles, who volunteered his services and handled funeral arrangements, the family says it couldn't have managed. But they are still deeply in debt. At the Synagogue for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin made his first appeal ever for aid for a family from the pulpit, said family friend David Meiron, who, like Anat, is a Hebrew school teacher at the temple. Meiron has helped set up a fund to aid the family. Donations can be sent to Anat Gigi, 22100 Burbank Blvd. '323, Woodland Hills, CA 91367.

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