AVA – A 21-year-old driver died and children were airlifted to St. Louis after a utility vehicle overturned this weekend.

Brian Modglin of rural Ava  lost his life Sunday when the Yamaha Rhino utility task vehicle carrying him, his girlfriend and seven children tipped over, tossing the passengers out and landing on Modglin.

Modglin's girlfriend’s two daughters, who were flown to St. Louis, were reported to be in stable condition.

Friends and family remember Modglin as a friendly young man with a persevering spirit and a sense of humor that could bring a smile to anyone’s face.

“When I got here and put his face in my hands, I pretty much knew he was gone,” Modglin’s mother, Sharon McComb said Monday when she returned to the scene of the crash on Ash Road.

It wasn’t the first time McComb found herself at her son’s side after an accident. In the summer of 2009, he was injured while diving at the bluffs near his house, and on Halloween 2010, he was struck by a vehicle while walking from a party.

The 2010 accident left Modglin in a coma for 23 days, with doctors advising the family to prepare for the worst. He awoke, though, and with a stringent therapy routine at NeuroRestorative in Carbondale returned to an almost-normal life. He continued to have short-term memory problems and only recently recovered strength in one arm.

“I feel he’s been through so much, fought for his life so many times,” McComb said.

Dustin Risinger, Modglin’s close friend, said he was left in shock by Sunday’s events. After the 2010 accident, friends and family began rallying around the name Brian’s Captains, an allusion to his love for comic book hero Captain America.

“You’d think after everything he’d been through, he’d catch a break,” he said.

Everyone in Ava knew Modglin, friends and family said. While attending Trico High School, he was asked to deliver a speech at graduation, even though he wasn’t valedictorian. People just recognized his charisma and passion for life.

“He had this aura around him that just glowed,” Risinger said.

Modglin was a registered organ donor, and McComb said she’d finalized those arrangements Monday morning, and that’s what her son would have wanted.

She said the family plans to get rid of the vehicle involved in his death and other all-terrain vehicles they own.

“They’re dangerous; they’re all dangerous,” she said, acknowledging nine people -- even seven children -- were probably too many to have on the vehicle.

“They were just going to go down the street and come back,” she said, noting the kids asked to go along with Modglin and his girlfriend for the ride.

McComb said she’ll remember her son’s smile and his personality, as well as his fighting spirit that allowed him to overcome so much adversity.

“He’d come so far,” she said. “He struggled a lot. It changed everything for him.”

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