DANVILLE, Va. (AP) — Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguer Blake Bivens says he learned through social media of the deaths of three family members last summer.
Speaking publicly for what is believed to be the first time about the Aug. 28 deaths of wife Emily, 1-year-old son Culle and mother-in-law Joan Bernard, Bivens recalled details of traveling home to Keeling, Virginia, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he had been on a road trip with the Rays’ Double-A Montgomery affiliate.
The 24-year-old pitcher’s brother-in-law, Matthew Bernard, was arrested, charged with three counts of murder and is awaiting trial.
Bivens spoke for more than 30 minutes Sunday with interim senior pastor Travis Gore of The River Church during a conversation aired live on Facebook.
The athlete said his faith has helped him cope with the deaths.
“The only thing I really remember from the whole plane ride is I just went through periods. I just stared at the back of the seat the whole time, trying to get my mind to wrap around what I’m hearing,” Bivens said.
“It’s almost kind of like, `This isn’t really happening.’ I was more in a state of shock. I would go through periods of shaking,” he said. “Then I would start to lose it a little bit and break down and cry. It was kind of like a circle. The plane rides just seemed like they took forever.”
Bivens said he initially feared something was wrong when he awakened that day and had not received a text message from his wife.
The concern grew when he couldn’t reach her and he learned on Facebook that his brother-in-law was being sought by police. He returned to social media, searching for information, while sitting in the Chattanooga airport.
“First headline I see is two females and a small child were gone. I immediately knew that was them,” Bivens said. “I found out my family was gone over a Facebook headline. I just immediately began to scream in the middle of the airport.’’
The pitcher said the trip home “could have been a whole lot worse for me” if he had not been accompanied by three members of the Rays organization, including Montgomery manager Morgan Ensberg.
“I think the hardest moment for me was when I got home and I walked in my son’s bedroom for the first time and realized I was never going to see him on this earth again,” Bivens said. “That was the worst moment in my life. Nothing ever will come to feeling the way I felt at that moment.”