Heartbreak as kids say final goodbye to parents killed in crash
SARSOTA (FOX 13) - The heartbreak in Sarasota County can be felt across the country, as four children left without their parents said their final goodbyes Friday.
Two caskets were draped in flowers: One for D.J. Howard and the other for his wife Crystal Howard.
Centered in the front row, their four children, ages 6 to 13, were surrounded by their extended family.
Some of them are too young to comprehend what has happened.
"The kids loved their parents," said Pastor Wesley Tunstall Jr. "The oldest boy may knows what is going on. The rest of the kids just figure they are used to staying with grandma or grandpa, they are thinking they are just here on vacation or here for the summer," said Pastor Tunstall.
From the sanctuary, there was a flood of tears as D.J. and Crystal were remembered.
"I can't imagine the pain and suffering of this family," said a cousin.
The two were killed in a wreck on Halloween night near their home in Georgia. They had gone to buy face paint for their kids' Halloween costumes when D.J lost control of the car and crashed into a tree.
Georgia State Trooper Nathan Bradley went to inform the family and found the four kids in their costumes. In an act of kindness that has since received national attention, he took care of them and waited for their grandmother to drive up from Sarasota.
"I want to thank the officer that came and took my cousins and still allowed my cousins to enjoy their Halloween on that horrible night," one cousin said.
Trooper Bradley went a step further. He started an online campaign to raise money for the four children.
It has raised nearly $500,000.
"This will help mama and my cousins so much in the future," their cousin said.
That money is set aside in an education trust fund for the children, but the family has more immediate needs. Pastor Wesley Tunstall Jr. said their grandmother's home is small and cramped. He also worries about her health.
"This is going to be a long-term thing. They are going to need somewhere to stay, I think, to be good in school and to reach their potentials. They are going to need a good rest," he said.
The family plans on being there and filling every step that D.J. and Crystal will now miss.
"Every footprint that the mom and dad took, grandma, granddaddy, aunts, uncles, cousins, we will all do it with them," added Denedra Moore.
Along with the GoFundMe page, a Facebook page has also been set up to help the Howard children. Click here for more information.