WHITMAN (CBS) – A candlelight vigil was held Friday night in Whitman to honor two children, their mother and grandmother who were killed earlier this week in a horrific crash in Florida.
Five-year-old Scarlett Smith, her 12-year-old brother Jaxon, their mother, 41-year-old Julie Smith of Whitman and their grandmother, 76-year-old Josephine Fay of South Weymouth, died when their minivan was hit by a pickup truck just outside of Orlando Tuesday evening.
Four others in the van – Scarlett’s twin sister Skylar, her 10-year-old sister Shalie, their father, Shane Smith and their grandfather William Fay – survived. The family was in Florida during school vacation week for a trip to Disney World.
Hundreds of people turned out to comfort each other and show their support. Through a family member, Shane Smith passed along his own message to the Whitman-Hanson community. “He is absolutely overwhelmed with your kindness, your support, just standing by him getting through this,” Smith’s brother-in-law Bob Condon said.
No other family members attended, and people left messages of love to be delivered to them.
“They need to know I cared about him a lot,” said Alexa Brown, who knows the family.
“When something like this happens I think you feel like you need to do something,” said neighbor Brenda Elfmann.
Whitman Youth Soccer organized the candlelight vigil at the Whitman Middle School, where Jaxon was a sixth grader. He also played in the soccer league.
“I just feel like we need to bond together as a community,” said Stephanie Blackman, who organized the vigil. “The best thing for us to heal is to be together.”
Many of the stories Friday night focused on Jaxon. “There’s a lot of magic in these,” said Condon referring to a pair of Jaxon’s cleats.
His family gave a pair of his soccer cleats to a teammate wearing the same size as a way to carry on Jaxon’s legacy. “They were Jaxon’s shoes. I remember how hard Jaxon played and how good he was and he always had the coolest cleats on the field, so I feel pretty special to have these,” Jaxon’s teammate Will Litchfield said.
In a final tribute, everyone raised their candles and repeated a phrase that he asked his coach every practice, one that embodied Jaxon’s caring spirit. “How’s your ankle coach?” said the crowd.
Hanson Middle School Principal William Tranter described Jaxon as a “bright light” at the school. “He had a real infectious smile and a great personality,” Tranter said. “He was kind of like the mayor.”
Tranter said parents, teachers and administrators are struggling with the loss. “It’s not something you take a class on when you go to school,” Tranter said.
Deborah Horner brought Finnegan the comfort dog to the school on Friday. “Just their presence, golden retrievers are always smiling, always have a smile on their face,” Horner said. “It’s remarkable what dogs can do.”
There is also support around town. The sign outside the Peaceful Meadows ice cream shop now reads “Our hearts are with the Smith and Fay family.”
“Just to let the families that know they are on our minds,” the store’s operations manager told WBZ-TV Friday.
The family thanked those who stepped forward in their time of need in a statement Thursday, saying, “The Fay/Smith Families greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and prayers as we process the events of this horrific tragedy.”
“We are truly heartbroken,” they said. “We continue to grieve for the loss of our loved ones. Thank you for your outpouring of kindness.”
School vacation week is ending and grief counselors were available Friday. They will be there Monday when the kids go back to school.
Those looking to support the family can donate to their GoFundMe here.