Rochester family remembers victim of fatal hit and run

(ABC 6 News) – The community is remembering a 17-year-old Rochester native who died in a hit-in-run early Sunday morning.

Darisha Bailey Vath, was hit by 20-year-old Dylan Simmons of North Branch, Minnesota outside of a Forest Lake park just before 1:30 a.m. on Sunday.

He turned himself over to authorities after the incident claiming to be responsible for the hit-in-run. Simmons is currently being charged with third-degree murder and criminal vehicular homicide.

Friends and family described Darisha as a soul that truly cared for everyone in her life.

“She was a good kid, a good soul,” said her aunt Saroeung Stanton.

“She had this presence about her that you would always want to be around her and spend time with her,” added Jessalena Sonethongkham, one of 24 cousin’s of Darisha.

Whether it was just passing time in going shopping and looking for something to do. Or needing someone to talk about a failed exam or bigger issues in life. Darisha was always there to listen and help everyone in her life at their best and worst moments.

“She was such a loving girl to everybody. She gave so many chances to everybody,” said her sister, Deriona Bailey-Vath.

Darisha, her parents and three siblings moved out of Rochester in 2013 to Stacey, Minnesota. Even after the move, she and her family would always make the time to come back and visit the rest of the family still in Rochester.

“She would always make time to hang out with her uncle, her aunt, even though we live two hours away, once she got her drivers license, she would always come down to see us. Text us, tell us that she loves us,” said Rose Sonethongkham, an aunt of Darisha.

But early Sunday morning, the family received the tragic news that she would never get to make a visit to Rochester again.

“That was like the worst news you can get you know? The person you helped raise,” said Stanton.

“I could not even comprehend what was going on, I thought it was just a nightmare,” added Rose Sonethongkham.

“She always come to visit me almost every month. So from now on I cannot see her, I don’t know what to do with that,” said her grandfather, Savath Nhao.

While the family will hope for justice in court moving forward, the memories they’re holding onto of Darisha are helping them get through their grief. Memories that include a family trip to Thailand in January of 2023, which saw Darisha take her first steps into the larger world with a life changing view bringing her back to the States.

“It opened her life. When she came back she’s like I’m going to graduate, I’m going to go to college and be a veterinarian. I want to help out. I’m going to go around the world and save anything, any animals, an person out there,” said Rose Sonethongkham.

“One of my memories with her in Cambodia was we had all the nieces and her aunts all sitting around a table and I brought them different bugs to try, and she did it! No, no questions asked she just did it,” Her uncle Savy Vath, reminisced.

With such a compassionate and nurturing impact on her family, Daisha’s presence in their lives will never be forgotten.

“Even though her life was short she made the best of it. Her caring heart, so that’s how we will remember her as a caring, loving persona with a strong personality. Like I said, she has a strong personality and that’s how she got all the cousin’s together, all three of them,” said Rose Sonethongkham.

A Go-Fund-Me page for the family’s funeral expenses is still taking donations. Darisha’s visitation and funeral service will take place in Rochester on Saturday, July 22, at Ranfranz and Vine Funeral Home. Visitation begins at 1 p.m. with the service at 2 p.m.