Two Parents made a quick dash to the store for makeup to complete their children’s Halloween costumes, but did not come back home. Donald and Crystal Howard died in a horrible car crash and left behind their four children. Thankfully, the children had a “Guardian Trooper” for the night.
According to the GoFundMe Page set up by Trooper Nathan Bradley, here is the account of what happened:
This past Halloween (Oct. 31, 2015,), I overheard an operator going over the details of a wreck with a trooper that was a couple of counties away. "Single vehicle wreck with possible fatalities" she regrettably informed. After a drive that would feel like an eternity, I could see a display of blue, red and amber lights in the distance. I exited my patrol car and felt the stillness in the air - the emergency personnel weren't scurrying and a crowd of witnesses were covering their mouths off to the side. I approached the horrific scene to validate what I had already suspected. They had matching addresses, which was less than a mile away.
A county deputy, the deputy coroner and I made our way to the house that was backed into the woods. You could hear dogs barking behind the wooden door as we knocked with desperation. The door hesitantly opened and there behind the locked screen door stood four children in full costume - a 13-year-old Freddy Krueger, 10-year-old daughter of a Dracula, 8-year-old wizard and a 6-year-old that appeared to be a firefighting ninja turtle. We were lost with words. The deputy then asked the eldest boy if anybody was home, hoping for a 'Yes' but the boy would unknowingly disappoint us. "My parents went to the store to get more face paint. They told us not to open the door for anybody, but they should be back soon."
We were able to reach the children’s paternal grandmother. She informed me that she lived in south Florida, but would be on her way.
I ran over to the children and asked if any of them would like to go eat with me. Again, they mentioned their parents would be arriving soon. It was important to me that I would not lie to them. I acknowledge their statement and threw out that their grandmother would be meeting with us later that evening. They piled into the unit and buckled up. I activated the emergency equipment in a poor attempt to occupy their minds. The eldest son told me that he thought my campaign cover and two trooper ball caps were cool. I thanked him for his compliment and told him he could wear them, if he chooses. When I asked where they liked to eat, I was bombarded with four separate suggestions.
I was amazed at the maturity level of the "children." I asked how they get to be so smart. They gave credit to their parents, whom homeschooled each of them. The eldest stated his mother was the teacher, but his father was the principal. We both chuckled.
Their Grandmother arrived just before dawn. We discussed the mechanics of the crash, her role as their guardian and options available when it comes to funeral arrangements. We both agreed that it would be best for the children to finish sleeping and to be told of their parent's fate the next day. We hoped that they would then relate the tragedy to Nov. 1, rather than Halloween. After the children woke up, we walked them to the truck so that they could head home. The 13-year-old would remind us of the task ahead by saying "Hopefully mom and dad will be home by now." I wanted to remain in these children lives, so I took one of my trooper ball caps and on the bill, I wrote a note telling the eldest to never change. I also wrote down my number so that he could contact me if he needed support.
I was contacted by the 13-year-old this morning; I was glad he felt comfortable reaching out to me. He told me that it is going to cost his grandparents $7,000 to transport his parents to Florida and the remaining funeral costs. This is important to me because I have bonded so closely with this family. We weighed out other options and I strongly disagree with the parents being left in Georgia, while the family remains in Florida. These children must be able to visit their parents' graves during their adolescent years and well into their adult years.
As of now the GoFundMe Page has exceeded it's goal of $7,000 (click here for more).