A community gathered Friday night with tears falling throughout a candlelight vigil for the four members of a Massachusetts family who were killed when a pickup truck plowed into the family’s van Tuesday near Disney World in Florida.
The 7 p.m. event at Whitman Middle School honored the lives of 5-year-old Scarlett Smith, her 11-year-old brother Jaxon, their 41-year-old mother Julie, all of Whitman, and their grandmother Josephine Fay, 76, of Weymouth.
“I feel so bad for the family. They took a vacation and they’re gone. I just can’t imagine the pain that they’re feeling," said one woman attending the vigil.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
“Even though we weren’t playing at this time he still had a ball at his feet. He just really loved the sport and he was great at it. He was going to go far,” said Stephanie Meckay of Jaxon, who she coached for several years. "My own family is struggling with the fact that we’re not going to see him on the field or off the field again.”
“He was better than most of the kids on the team," said Joey Sousa, a former teammate of Jaxson's. "I don’t think anybody could stop him.”
The community that showed up Friday night is representative of how they will keep going forward, healing together.
“It means everything," one woman said of the vigil. "It’s beautiful that people care about others and that we can show that even if you don’t know somebody you can still be there for them"
The Massachusetts family was traveling just south of Disney World in Kissimmee, near Orlando, when their van was hit by a truck at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Troopers said traffic was beginning to slow on Route 429 when a pickup truck driven by a 26-year-old Florida man hit the van from behind, sending it onto its side and into two other cars.
Five-year-old Scarlett and her mother Julie were killed in the crash, along with Scarlett's grandmother Josephine Fay.
Eleven-year-old Jaxon was flown to the hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead on Wednesday.
Four others were taken to the hospital.
The driver who struck the family's van is expected to face charges, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, but they won't be issued until the investigation has concluded.