MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — “That call was the hardest call for a parent to ever receive in their life.”

That call is still hard for Greg Johnson to talk about.

“I got the call at eight in the morning from the coroner’s office, and they asked if I was the father of Katarina Johnson… and I said yeah, and he said, ‘Well I’m sorry to inform you that your daughter was involved in a DUI accident and she’s passed away,'” he said.

Katarina Johnson had just started school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on a full academic scholarship.

“It was probably the happiest I heard her in so long,” said her mother Alexaundra. “She was finally just becoming independent, actually doing her own thing. Paving her way in life and stuff  and she was loving it.”

However, her life was cut short in Boulder City, Nevada, after police said a suspected DUI driver hit her head on in the early hours of Sept. 26, 2022.

“The impact was so hard her car was stuck at about a 60 degree angle in the air,” said Alexaundra.

Police said Katarina died at the scene. A few days after the crash, her parents were faced with the difficult task of identifying their daughter’s body.

“It was Alex’s birthday and we had to go see her and that’s when it actually sunk in that my daughter’s gone,” said Greg. “It was hard.”

It wasn’t just hard for Katarina’s parents, but for Jeremy Selvidge, too.

“It still doesn’t quite feel real,” he said. “Kat was a life taken way too soon.”

Selvidge grew close to Katarina while she ran cross country at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro. 

“She encouraged me as a coach because I saw the bigger picture unfolding in her life,” he said.

Selvidge knew Katarina’s life had to be remembered, so he worked with the school and community to raise money to plant a tree in her honor in the school’s memorial garden.

“For students who might need just a moment to reconnect, they can just step out and spend some time in that garden area,” said Selvidge.

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While Katarina’s parents continue to navigate life without her, they know this small gesture will create a big impact.

“So I feel like this is a way for us to keep her living and present and current and a way to remember and honor her,” said Alexaundra.

Selvidge said they plan on picking out a flowering tree to plant at the memorial garden.

The tree planting ceremony will be held at Blackman High School on Saturday, April 29 at 10 a.m.