Marisa Bocanegra, who just this month met her Colombian mother for the first time since she was abducted as a baby, has died in a car accident.
The 39-year-old mother-of-five from Faribault was a passenger in a minivan on Hwy. 57 near Wanamingo, when it was struck at an intersection by a northbound semi at 3:35 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
The driver of the car, a 15-year-old girl, has been seriously injured in the crash.
Marisa – aka Ana Maria – spoke with GoMN last month, telling the story of how she was abducted as a baby from the hospital where she was born in Colombia and illegally put up for adoption, eventually settling in Minnesota.
She connected with her mother and brother via a private investigator she found on Facebook two years ago, and earlier this month met her for the first time when she flew into Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport after an arduous wait.
You can watch GoMN's four-part video series "The Abduction of Ana Maria" below.
Marisa, who was born in Cundinamarca Bogota, Colombia, was due to appear with her mother at the Nueva Jerusalem Church in Faribault on Wednesday evening to talk about their story.
Here's the moment they were reunited.
On Monday, Marisa introduced her birth mother and brother to her adoptive Minnesota parents for the first time.
The day after her mother flew into Minnesota, Marisa wrote: "I'm beside myself. Tonight I've learned much more of my mama's history, which became my history today. I'm absolutely blown away by her strength and resilience my mother carries inside of her.
"I keep finding myself staring at my mom just taken back by how beautiful my mama's soul is."
She worked as a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate for Communication Services for the Deaf and did deaf interpreting services on a freelance basis – work prompted by her own progressive hearing loss.
She also volunteered as an instructor and horse leader with RideAbility, an equine therapy nonprofit. The Horses for Heroes Military Vets is one of the groups that does therapeutic horseback riding with them.
Those who knew her have been paying tribute on social media.
"Tonight, we grieve as Minnesota and the world lost one of the most passionate souls I have ever met," her friend, Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, wrote on Facebook. "I knew the day I met her she would make a difference in Minnesota with her story, life journey and her commitment to change. She was the advocate Minnesota needed."
"My heart breaks as I know she has touched so many lives, mine included to know that she is no longer with us," she added.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Marisa's mother and brother pay for the fees associated with changing their flight back to Colombia. They were scheduled to stay until Feb. 1, 2017, but because of Marisa's death, they are planning to return earlier than anticipated.
Here is GoMN's original four-part series, "The Abduction of Ana Maria."