Loved ones remember Nicholas Rappa, killed in crash with cardiologist

EDMOND, Okla. - Two weeks after a deadly car crash, the family of the man killed are speaking out, determined Nicholas Rappa's legacy live on.

First responders were called to the crash on I-35 near 15th Street on October 12. Cardiologist Bryan Perry is accused of driving drunk in his Mercedes when he crashed into Rappa, who was on his motorcycle. Authorities said Perry tried to make a getaway, even after crashing his car into a light pole. Rappa, 31, was killed in the crash.

Now, loved ones like Sarah Bridwell, who shared a 3-year-old daughter with Rappa, are left only with memories.

"He thought he was funnier than he really probably was but he was easy to poke fun at and have a good time with," Bridwell said. It was part of his silliness mostly those close to him were familiar with, as she said he could be quiet when you first met him. But once you were a friend, he wouldn't let you down.

"He was a guy that you knew always had your back," said Dr. Jess Thompson, a surgeon who worked closely with Rappa. "He was a guy you could always call, day or night, and whatever the request, he would do it."

Bridwell described Rappa as what some might call a man's man. He was an avid mechanic in his free time who loved fixing and rebuilding cars.

"He would spend all day in the shop with tools and dirty hands if he could," she said. "He was really good with his hands which translated into some of his work."

Rappa's other passion, his career helping fix children's hearts. He was a profusionist, in the operating room keeping children's hearts pumping and lungs breathing oxygen during open heart surgery.

"I had to call him all different times, day and night, and say, 'Nick, we've got a baby we've got to operate on. We've got to do something,'" Dr. Thompson said, "and he was always right there."

But none of that could touch the devotion Rappa had to his daughter, Reece.

"He always talked about Reece," Dr. Thompson said, "what he was doing with her, what he was teaching her."

"He was a really good girl dad," Bridwell said. "I don't think that's ever something he thought he would be."

His attention and love for his daughter was already informing the person she was growing to become.

"She would play in the shop with him, and get dirty, and do all the things that little girls don't typically want to do," Bridwell said. "She wanted to do everything just like him."

Trying to navigate their emotional path through the tragedy, Bridwell said Reece's age is both a blessing and a curse. But she's determined that his spirit and memory will live on through the young girl one way or another.

"I'm trying to make sure that she can talk about him, and remember him as much as she can now, with the heartbreaking knowledge that she probably won't remember him one day," Bridwell said. "And that is really difficult because she loves and adores him. She would light up when he came in a room, she could spot his car from a mile away, and while she's still connecting things to him, she's also wondering where he's at and why he's not here."