‘She always wanted to break barriers’: Family, friends mourn Papillion woman killed in lift accident

December 29, 2018 GMT

Asha Chaudhuri never let her wheelchair get in the way of her adventures. Her father, Pradipta Chaudhuri, was amazed by the things Asha would try to do.

“It was as if she was not sitting in the chair,” Pradipta said.

Asha died Thursday at age 25 after she fell out of her wheelchair and became pinned by the lift system in her Papillion home, near 120th Street and Nebraska Highway 370. Crews freed her in about 20 minutes and took her to the hospital in an ambulance, but she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Asha started using the chair about six years ago, her father said. Doctors found a tumor in the middle of Asha’s brain when she was about 2½ years old. She went through five surgeries in her lifetime, but the tricky location of the tumor made it hard for doctors to remove it completely.

She began using the chair when the tumor took a toll on Asha’s balance and ability to walk. The lift system in their home was installed to help Asha move between floors.

Sarpy County Chief Deputy Greg London said Friday that he did not believe the lift malfunctioned, and that Asha’s entrapment was a tragic accident.

“The chances of it happening again are just astronomical,” London said. “It was a fluke.”

An autopsy determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation.

“I lost her young,” Pradipta said. “I don’t understand the exact reason, but I know that God decided to bring her closer to him and wanted to end her pain.”

Asha, who graduated in 2012 from Adams Central High in Hastings, Nebraska, loved traveling with her family all across the United States and world, to places like Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and India. Last summer, Pradipta took Asha on a father-daughter trip to Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, a theme park that caters to people with special needs.

The trips always took a little extra planning to account for Asha’s needs, but Pradipta said that’s how his daughter taught him patience.

The family moved to Omaha in 2014, and Asha enrolled in a rehabilitation program at Quality Living Inc., a nonprofit care center for individuals with brain, spinal cord and other neurological conditions. It was there that Asha met a good friend and QLI mentor, Rachael Johnson.

Johnson survived a car accident in 2013 that left her quadriplegic, and she wondered how well she and Asha would be able to relate because they had different diagnoses.

“The second I entered the room, she shattered my doubts with a cheerful ‘Hello! What’s your name?’ ” Johnson said. “She asked me about my injury and my interests, and pretty soon I felt like we were just two friends hanging out.”

Johnson helped Asha use a computer, which was difficult for Asha because of a tremor in her hand. But Asha never gave up, Johnson said, and pretty soon she was writing her own blog.

“(Asha) always talked about how much she loved her family, how she wanted to make more friends and how she wanted to become more independent so she could even go to college one day,” Johnson said.

She never lost her love of reading, Pradipta said. She was finishing “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins when she died.

He found another book beside his daughter’s bed: Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.”

“She always wanted to break barriers. Go farther. Do things. Normalize her life,” Pradipta said. “Inside her, there was this fire that said: ‘I’m better than just sitting in this chair.’ ”