Update: The teen driver involved in the fatal Redwood City car crash that killed two Palo Alto natives may face vehicular manslaughter charges. Read more.
The local community is mourning the loss of the parents of twin girls who were killed on Nov. 4 during a major car collision.
The couple, who met in middle school, were "high school sweethearts," said one family member.
Gregory Ammen, 44, and Grace Spiridon, 42, Palo Alto natives and residents of San Carlos, died in a major collision involving two cars and seven passengers just before 8 p.m. Friday night. Ammen and Spiridon were turning left onto Finger Avenue from El Camino Real when they were hit by another car traveling at high speed, according to Michael Ammen.
Their 7-year-old daughters, Madison and Olivia, also in the car during the collision, were transported to Stanford Hospital with minor injuries and were released Sunday. The other car contained a 17-year-old driver and two passengers who suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The couple lived with their daughters in Eaton Hills, according to Gregory's younger brother and the girls' uncle, Michael Ammen. Gregory Ammen was an audio engineer at Dolby, and Spiridon worked at Google.
Ammen and Spiridon "loved their daughters more than anything in the world," according to Michael, who said the couple also enjoyed hiking, biking, live music and exploring the outdoors.
"Greg always put Grace and his family first," Michael Ammen said, describing his brother as "a source of kindness and light and love in the world." The couple, known as 'The G's' by their friends, "were the light of every party they went to," he added. "They were social magnets bringing people from all over (work, school, wherever) together for fun."
Ammen and Spiridon, who grew up in Palo Alto, went to the same middle school, but the romance didn't spark until they were at Palo Alto High School, according to their friends. Ammen graduated from Paly in 1996 and Spiridon was part of the Class of 1998.
Maura McCarthy, a longtime friend of Spiridon's, described a mutual crush and several dates between the two that blossomed after college and grew into a lifelong partnership, admired by friends and family alike. "They really held each other in such high esteem and regard and it was really nice to see — a model relationship for me," McCarthy said.
She said Grace "really embodied her name" and said her friend used to help her with math homework, share snacks during bike rides to soccer practice and, later, welcome McCarthy into their home for the holidays.
"We shared a pair of Doc Martens in junior high," she said laughing. "We had the same shoe size and pooled our allowance. I'd get them some days of the week, and she'd get them others."
McCarthy described Spiridon as more of a sister and an integral part of hers and many other lives. "I'm shattered," she said. "It's hard to think about my life — any memory from college, high school, whenever — without Grace in it."
Stephanie King, a friend of more than three decades, described Spiridon as a great baker, a hard worker and the "quintessential mom." From middle school basketball games and their first concerts as teenagers to birthday mixtapes and mother-daughter dinners, she recalled decades of shared memories with Spiridon, whom she said was well-loved and a beloved friend to all who knew her.
She said Ammen and Spiridon were the type to go above and beyond for each other and their daughters, planning camping trips and elaborate surprise birthdays.
"The fact that they were taken away like this is heartbreaking," she said. "This is just such a horrible tragedy, and you just feel for Grace and Greg's parents who have lost their children. And for the girls who are growing up without their parents."
King said taking care of the girls had become a driving motivation for friends and family alike.
"I want them to have as many opportunities as possible," she said. "These girls should never want for anything because they had their parents taken away from them."
A GoFundMe organized by Spiridon's sister, Liza Spiridon, has already raised more than $185,000 to support the twin daughters.
"The world lost two beautiful souls, and leaves two amazing girls without parents," Liza Spiridon wrote in the fundraiser. "We would like to honor them by setting up resources for the care of their wonderful 7-year-old girls."
Michael Ammen, who has two kids of his own, said he was "overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Greg and Grace's numerous friends and the community as well." He said they're "taking it one day at a time" but are grateful to their friends and family, including Ammen and Spiridon's parents who live in the area.
"There is an incredibly strong support structure in place for the girls," he said.
Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale and Police Chief Dan Mulholland released a joint statement Monday afternoon.
"On behalf of the Redwood City City Council, we extend our deepest sympathies to the two young children who tragically lost their parents," Hale said in the statement. "Grief and stress counseling have been made available to students and families, and to first responders who provided emergency assistance at the scene."
"This remains a very active, ongoing investigation and more information will be released as soon as it is available," Mulholland said. "There are no words to express the magnitude of this loss. We are all mourning this tragedy together."
The couple is survived by Ammen's parents, Chris and Adrienne Ammen; brother, Mike Ammen; Spiridon's mother, Nana Spiridon; sister, Liza Spiridon; and many other friends and family members.