In an interview with The Enterprise from the Fay family's Weymouth home, William Fay and Shane Smith reflected on the Florida crash that claimed three generations of the family — Josephine Fay, 76, Julie Smith, 41, Jaxon Smith, 11, and Scarlett Smith, 5 — while expressing their appreciation to the organizations, first responders and people in the community that have supported and helped them through this process.
WEYMOUTH — For the Smith and Fay family, their first day at Disney World in Orlando was magical.
365体育官网Having just arrived the night before on Feb. 17, the eight members of the family — grandparents William and Josephine Fay, both 76, of Weymouth; their daughter and son-in-law, 41-year-old Julie Smith and 43-year-old Shane Smith of Whitman; and Shane and Julie's four children, 11-year-old Jaxon, 10-year-old Shalie and 5-year-old twins, Scarlett and Skylar – visiting Disney for the third time split off for their annual tradition.
The three girls, accompanied by their grandparents and mother, received makeovers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Magic Kingdom, where they were transformed into princesses. Less interested in the makeovers was Jaxon, who would usually hit the LEGO and soccer stores with his father, Shane said.
365体育官网“I felt like that whole afternoon, in general from morning to afternoon, we had a good day,” Shane said, in an interview with The Enterprise from the Fay family's Weymouth home Thursday evening.
365体育官网It would be unimaginable to them that later that night, half the family would be gone in an instant.
“We didn’t just lose one person,” Susan Furman, Julie’s sister, said. “We lost two. We lost three. We lost four. … Obviously, we say life happens. You can say things happen, when it’s your time, it’s your time. But it’s like, oh my God, how can it be all of their time all at once? It’s just heartbreaking, overwhelming.”
365体育官网On their way back to their rental property, the family of eight was traveling in a rental van on State Road 429 in Kissimmee, Florida, near Orlando, about 5:30 p.m. when traffic began to slow down. Police say a pickup truck driving behind the family’s van did not slow down, striking the back of the van and causing it to roll over onto its side.
The driver of that pickup truck, 26-year-old Lucas Dos Reis Laurindo, of Kissimmee, Florida, will face charges, but those charges were still pending as of Friday afternoon, according to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Kim Montes, as the investigation is ongoing.
The crash claimed the lives of Josephine, Julie, Jaxon and Scarlett, while William, Shane, Shalie and Skylar survived.We can deliver news just like this directly to your inbox. You can sign up for This Just In (a daily 7:30 p.m. newsletter with items we've posted that day), News Alerts (so you don't miss anything important) and more. It's customized to your preferences -- and it'll only take a few seconds.
Shane said he doesn’t remember the crash, though the incident was clearer for William, who found himself suspended by his seat belt with Shane underneath him in the driver’s seat, unconscious.
“It was chaotic in general,” Shane said. “I was completely blacked out. I recall seeing the cars as they were slowing in front of me and I was kind of pushing the brake as we got closer, but before I knew it … we were on our side and Bill is yelling my name out and I had no clue what had happened prior to that.”
Good Samaritans stopped to help the surviving family members out of the car until emergency responders arrived, both Shane and William said. While Scarlett, Julie and Josephine were pronounced dead at the scene, Jaxon was transported in critical condition by medical helicopter to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, where he later died Wednesday. Shalie and Skylar were also transported to Arnold Palmer Hospital to be evaluated, though they were uninjured, while William and Shane were transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center in stable condition.
365体育官网Jaxon, who had been battling an autoimmune disorder, PANDAS, sparked by a step throat infection about three years ago that caused him anxiety and OCD, ultimately became an organ donor for six recipients, Shane said.
365体育官网“They were able to keep him on life support for a little while and as a result of that, his heart and his liver and his lungs and his kidneys all went to young adults and younger kids,” Shane said.
365体育官网“And saved lives,” added Bill Fay Jr., Julie’s brother.
“We’re happy that happened because that doesn’t always happen,” Shane said. “... Given all he had going on and what was going wrong for him, knowing he was able to have that kind of impact, that’s got to make you feel better about everything. It’s hard to accept, just the fact it happened.”
365体育官网Bill Fay Jr. said that friends of his wife Lydia happened to be vacationing in Orlando at the same time. They went to the hospital to visit the family, he said, and also went to the rental property to pack up the family’s belongings and assisted them in getting to the airport.
Representatives from Disney World also made an appearance at the hospital with gift baskets for the girls, Shane said, with Bill Fay Jr. noting that JetBlue airlines also rescheduled the family’s flights home at no cost and escorted the family members back in Massachusetts to meet them right at the gate at Boston Logan International Airport.
And along with coming to terms with their own grief and fielding a flood of well-wishes and sentiments from those who know the family, they’ve also been busy trying to plan what amounts to four funerals, Bill Fay Jr. said.
365体育官网But when they were deciding what poem or saying to put on the back of the calling cards to be handed out during the service, Shalie stepped up, said Sheila Condon, Julie's sister.
365体育官网“All of a sudden, Shalie said, 'I can write one,'” Condon said. “... It was her way of mourning. She wrote a wonderful thing about each of them. We talked and there was our answer. No one had to think about what we were going to write or say. Shalie did it.”
365体育官网Along with the poems she wrote for each member of her family, Shalie included pictures for each, Furman said. Given his love of soccer, Jaxon’s calling card includes a soccer ball, as well as gaming references for Roblox and Fortnite. For Julie, Shalie knew her mother did a lot of documents, so she included a piece of paper with scribbles and hearts, Furman said. For Josephine, Shalie considered her to be adventurous, so she included flowers because “flowers are outside and you have to go places to pick them.” And for Scarlett, Shalie included a doll, as her sister liked to play with them, Furman said.
Those calling cards will be given out Saturday morning during the 10 a.m. funeral Mass for all four members of the family, which will be held at the St. Francis Xavier Church, 234 Pleasant St., Weymouth.
Others in the community have made efforts to honor the family members. A classmate of Scarlett’s knew she liked unicorns, so with her mother’s help, that classmate started collecting unicorns in honor of her friend for kids in school, so far totaling more than 140 of them, Shane said.
“I’m thinking to myself, 'That’s awesome!'” he said. “You know what I mean? There’s a little 5-year-old’s way to get through the mourning process. I hope they were good friends and that’s such a sweet thing.”
365体育官网At the vigil for the family on Feb. 21, which drew hundreds of people, Jaxon’s teammates all sported his jersey number, five. A family friend who handles their landscaping has started working on planting memorial trees at the Smiths’ Whitman home and the Fays' Weymouth home. And Condon noted that as she was walking out of her father’s home the other day, a woman driving by stopped to give her flowers, telling her she had mentored Josephine at Quincy College and felt the need to stop by and say a prayer.
365体育官网“What caught me when she said about saying the prayer is my mother was very religious and her faith was very important to her,” she said. "I thought of all people, this woman felt the need to drive by and say a prayer.”
They’ve also received assistance through a GoFundMe account set up by Julie’s high school classmate, Sally Godin, that has raised nearly $115,000 so far.
365体育官网And through the GoFundMe, one of the good Samaritans named Roger who had stopped to help down in Florida was able to contact the family, Bill Fay Jr. said.
365体育官网“Just a very solid, solid person,” Bill Fay Jr. said. “Just an amazing guy. He said he felt that he had known them his whole life or at least a large portion of his life, even though it was really just that day, just because of the connection.”
365体育官网With the GoFundMe, the family has set up a memorial fund to help tackle funeral and medical costs, along with an effort to raise awareness and money for Tufts Hospital, where Jaxon received treatment for his PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections), in an effort to give back to the hospital that helped them.
It’s hard to get the condition diagnosed, Shane noted, and especially hard to get treatments covered by insurance. Jaxon would go to Tufts every five weeks for IV treatments, which cost $16,000 each treatment.
“PANDAS is just a really hard thing,” Shane said. “We were really fortunate with Tufts, but also my wife invested a lot of time in trying to get this to work. If she hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have been where we were. She was just a very dedicated person when it came to that stuff.”
365体育官网While Julie played a large role in running the household, she especially took charge when it came to handling Jaxon’s PANDAS diagnosis and treatments both at the hospital and at home.
“Everything that Jaxon needed, which you didn’t see in the public part of it but at home, she was it,” Shane said. “That would have been a difficult thing for him to deal with if he didn’t have his mom.”
365体育官网With the condition, which sparked anxiety and OCD tendencies for Jaxon, soccer was an outlet, Shane said. The girls also pursued athletics, with Shalie taking up cheerleading and gymnastics and both Skylar and Scarlett wanting to follow in her footsteps. Scarlett was a “daddy’s girl,” Shane said, with Condon adding that the 5-year-old had her father’s smile.
Meanwhile, Julie was blossoming in her career, Bill Fay Jr. said, and excelled at everything she did. Julie took after Josephine in that both took charge, especially in caring for their families, with both jumping at the opportunity to take family trips.
“It didn’t take much because all she’d have to say is, ‘Mom, want to go?’ and of course Jo would be jumping on it and in a heartbeat say, ‘Bill, we’re going to Florida.’” Shane said. “He was always a good sport. He’d go with anything.”
365体育官网And along with taking after Shane and Julie, the children also have reflections of Josephine, William said.
365体育官网“You know my wife would be so proud because through the children, I see the mannerisms of my wife come through the children,” he said.
365体育官网The Fay and Smith family stressed that they want to extend their appreciation to the organizations, first responders and people in the community who have supported and helped them through this process.
"At one point, I said, how do you get it out there to thank everyone?" Condon said. "It's just the sheer generosity and the caring for us has been unbelievable. Every day, we're all getting messages ... It's just one thing after another."
And with no siblings of his own and his parents living in California, Shane said Julie’s family has really become his own, and it’s through their support that he’s able to deal with his loss.
“This is my family,” he said. “It would be really hard to go through this without having some help like this … In addition to what they’ve done, it’s also extended family, so Jo’s sister’s family. There’s this large extended family that’s just been very helpful. I feel like I’m closer in a way to them as a result of everything. I couldn’t have done it without their help. There’s no way.”
Donations in memory of the family may be made to the Smith and Fay Memorial Fund (North Easton Savings Bank, 570 Washington St., Whitman, MA 02382) or in memory of Jaxon Smith to the Pediatric Neurology Fund at Tufts Medical Center (Tufts Medical Center Development Office, 800 Washington St., #231, Boston, MA 02111).
Staff writer Corlyn Voorhees can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org