22 years after horrific accident, woman's walk in 4th of July parade tugs at Ashland's heartstrings

ASHLAND — It was an emotional moment for many who watched this town's Fourth of July parade as they saw former hometown girl Khrista Matthews walk along part of the parade route.
Matthews, who lost the use of her legs 22 years ago in a horrific crash on Interstate 93 in Sanbornton, says that she has been walking with the use of crutches and leg and hip braces for over five years now.
''I was a little overwhelmed by the response. People were so enthusiastic and happy to see me walk. I didn't realize it was going to be such an emotional moment,'' said Matthews.
She said that she made a last-minute decision to walk in the parade and knew she couldn't walk the whole route, so arranged for people to bring her crutches to her on a level part of Main Street so that she could walk at least part of the route.
''I've been walking for quite some time with the crutches, ever since 2008, as part of my exercise. So I said to myself 'why not do it in a parade?' ''
It turned out to be an unforgettable moment for the spectators, whom Matthews notes hadn't seen her walk in 22 years, as well as Matthews herself, who hadn't expected the huge show of support and affection from the hometown audience.
Matthews, 36, says she remains active in a number of sports activities for handicapped athletes, including hockey and water skiing. She also enjoys swimming and can frequently be seen along Rte. 106 in Belmont with her handcycle.
She at one-time worked as RecycleFirst program manager for Northeast Passage, a University of New Hampshire program that provides recreational opportunities for people with disabilities, and from 2005 until 2010 worked for the N.H. Department of Corrections as an accounting technician.
She now serves as a volunteer at Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia, where her cheerful personality is a hit with her co-workers and patients alike, while continuing to stay active in sports programs such as hockey.
Khrista, who at one time shared a home in Belmont with her sister, Melissa, who was also injured in the same accident, says that her parents, Larry and Penni Matthews, now live with her while Melissa has moved to Ashland, where she has a job in the housekeeping department at Plymouth State University.
The Feb. 9, 1991 accident took place on a Saturday evening when a southbound driver entered the northbound lane of I-93 at New Hampton and, after driving several miles, collided with the northbound car in which the Matthews girls were passengers.
Killed in the crash were Kathleen Hansen, driver of the northbound car, who was driving the girls home from a church gathering. Also killed were Khristina Hansen, the driver's daughter, and Amber Duncan.

Khrista Matthews, who lost the use of her legs following a car accident 22 years ago, used crutches to walk part of the route of Ashland's Fourth of July parade last week. (Gordon King photo)