Relatives of 911 Dispatcher Killed by Wrong-Way Driver Reflect on Her Life, Their Loss

February 18, 2018 10:15 PM

Jenna Bixby was simply on her way to work Saturday night.

She lived in Nowthen. The 30-year-old Bixby covered the overnight shift in Minneapolis as a 911 dispatcher.  


At around 8 p.m. Saturday, Bixby was passing through Brooklyn Park when a man, driving the wrong way on Highway 252 at Brookdale Drive, collided head-on with Bixby's car. She was in a Hyundai sedan; he was in an SUV.  

RELATED: Minneapolis 911 Dispatcher Killed by Wrong-Way Driver on Highway 252

Bixby, a wife and Aunt, died from the impact. 

The seasoned dispatcher never had a chance to call for help. Bixby's sister, Nikki Orlicki, said when she learned that, her heart broke even more.

"She goes to work to save people from these kind of calls, and nobody was there to save her," Orlicki said.

Brooklyn Park police and the Minnesota State Patrol responded to the scene. They've identified the SUV driver as 72-year-old Richard Shaka,  a retired pastor, teacher and widower. Shaka was taken to North Memorial Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. On Sunday, a spokesperson confirmed he remained in critical condition.

Authorities detected alcohol on Shaka, according to the State Patrol incident report.

Jenna is married to Daniel Bixby. His sister, Darcie French, said, "You just never think this is going to happen to your family. To hear somebody was driving after being under the influence of alcohol made it that much worse, because it easily could've been avoided."

French described Jenna as a bundle of energy who owned cats and birds, and considered the pets her children.

Through tears Sunday, Nikki Orlicki said Jenna was more than her sister. She was her best friend and a devoted aunt to Orlicki's daughter. 

Orlicki said Bixby has been a dispatcher for three different agencies over her career. "She went to work every day to save people, that was her mission," she said.

Bixby's boss, Minneapolis 911 Director Heather Hunt, shared her sympathies in a statement Sunday:

Our staff at Minneapolis Emergency Communications is shocked and saddened to lose our teammate Jenna Bixby. She was dedicated to helping others and was taken from us on her way to do just that. Jenna worked at 911 for the past three years as a dispatcher, a communications training officer who coached and developed new employees, and a member of our Community Outreach and Education Team, volunteering at community events including fundraisers for Special Olympics. Jenna embodies the caring, dedication and compassion that are the hallmarks of exceptional public service. She will be greatly missed.


Beth McDonough

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