ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – A husband and wife from St. Marys were killed in a head-on, wrong-way crash Saturday night in Alachua County, authorities said. According to family members, the couple’s 4-year-old boy died later at a hospital. Their 6-month-old girl was hospitalized.
A GoFundMe has raised more than $28,000 for the child that survived.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a Hyundai Elantra was going west in the eastbound lanes of State Road 24 near Northeast 69th Way about 11:40 p.m. when it collided head-on with a Toyota Rav4 traveling east.
Troopers said the driver of the Toyota -- Christopher Hesling, 30, of St. Marys, Georgia -- and one of the passengers -- Brittany Hesling, 31, also of St. Marys -- died. The FHP report shows Brittany Hesling was not wearing a seat belt.
The couple’s two children were also in the vehicle. The FHP report shows 4-year-old Jack Hesling and 6-month-old Maggie Hesling were taken to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Troopers said the boy suffered critical injuries and died Sunday evening at the hospital. The girl suffered minor injuries.
Troopers said the driver of the Hyundai also died. The driver was not immediately identified, as troopers said the vehicle was damaged in a fire after the collision.
An unidentified man who didn’t want his name used saw the crash happen. He said he went to aid the family and said the little boy didn’t have any obvious physical signs of trauma, but could not respond to verbal cues at the scene.
The man said he heard a faint cry from inside the family’s car and at first thought it was a cat. He said when he realized it was a baby he and other bystanders broke the windows and got the little girl and her brother out. The man, his wife, and other good Samaritans held the two children until paramedics got there.
An online wedding announcement said Christopher, who went to Georgia Southern University and the University of Tennessee, and Brittany, who attended Armstrong Atlantic State University, married in 2012. The pair most recently lived in a neighborhood near downtown St. Marys with their two children. They were Effingham County High School’s prom king and queen and high school sweethearts.
A neighbor told News4Jax on Sunday that she worked with Christopher at MWR on Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. She said she used to see the little boy playing in the yard, and described them as a sweet, loving family.
“They were just a couple doors down from us he had worked with me, with MWR on the base and that’s how I knew him and he came in and had taken over the job there as the one who did all of our marketing for MWR and all of our events and activities and all of that," said Alice Hurley. "And I would see him walking down the street with his little son.”
“It was shocking when I came home and read it," said Hurley. “Luckily, the little baby daughter was fine, but it was really bad. Really bad.”