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Zionsville family mourns loss of daughter at IU

Rick Fiege and his wife are in the throes of planning Rachael's funeral while trying to make sense of her death. But he wanted to take a moment to stop, reflect and share.
Rachael Fiege

It's been almost a week since an Indiana University freshman died after falling down the basement stairs at an off-campus house party - before she even attended her first class. Rachael Fiege suffered a catastrophic brain injury, and her friends delayed calling for help for six hours.

Eyewitness News spoke to Rachael's father Wednesday about his daughter and the legacy she left behind.

Rick Fiege is a father in mourning. Rachael was his baby girl. He was the first one to teach her how to play soccer, a sport she loved and played competitively. They were as tight as any father and daughter could be.

Rick and his wife are in the throes of planning Rachael's funeral while trying to make sense of her death. But he wanted to take a moment to stop, reflect and share. He was gracious enough to do that by phone this morning.

There are many things Rick Fiege and his wife, Angi, will miss about their daughter, Rachael. Several stick out.

"Just that smiling face. I called her Rachey. She brightened up your day for sure. I never heard a discouraging word out of her," said Rick.

And that happy-go-lucky young lady loved soccer. She started playing at age five.

"Soccer opened up so many doors for her. There is a soccer program for children with mental disabilities. That was her first experience working with children like that and she found it so rewarding," said Rick.

Those precious memories of a flame so bright and a heart so giving are what bring some sense of peace to this family. Rick recalls his last visit with Rachael.

"I went down there on Thursday morning and met with her. We talked for a while. She had a full day planned, but we went over to the bank and got her an account set up. She didn't like to give me kisses and hugs in public. But she did, she gave me a nice hug and kiss in front of her dorm friends," he said.

The next morning, Rick and his wife got the call about the fall and massive head injury and rushed to the hospital. Rachael's body was shutting down. Her family honored her own request and agreed to donate her organs.

"That's something Rachael and I had talked about when she got her driver's license. She was like, 'yeah, why would I not do that?' When you're doing that, you're not thinking you're going to go through it," said Rick. "There's families out there praying that some miracle for them will happen."

While Rachael lives on, there are still many questions about her death - questions Rick has no answers for. But he does say talk of the Lifeline Law that protects a college student from getting in trouble when they call for help doesn't apply here.

"All the kids knew about that law," he said, but they were apparently still scared. "They're 17, 18, 20 years old. They're not thinking that. They're not even remotely wired to think that way. So, that's kind of what it was - just a tragic accident and that's the way it all worked."

Angi was unavailable most of the day. She was in Bloomington packing up the dorm room she and her daughter just decorated together a week ago.

Rachael's mother says she absolutely does not believe there was any malicious intent on the part of the friends at the party that night. They just didn't realize she was in such grave condition. Angi and her husband both believe they have a platform to take up. They're slowly gaining more clarity on what that is.

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