MORGAN COUNTY, Ga. - Four children, whose parents were killed in a car wreck in Morgan County on Halloween night, are headed to Florida with their grandmother. The move comes after a a Georgia State Patrol Trooper going above and beyond for the family.
"They are the perfect, the kids you wish to have. Smart, funny, intelligent, patient," said Trooper Nathan Bradley.
Newborn residents Donald and Crystal Howard were traveling westbound on Broughton Road Saturday, returning home after going to the store to buy face paint for their children, when Donald Howard lost control of the vehicle and struck a tree. They died on scene.
Trooper Bradley was one of the troopers who responded to the crash. Bradley, along with a county deputy, and deputy coroner went to the couple's home to notify the next of kin, and were greeted at the door by the Howard's four children, ages 13, 10, 8, and 6-years-old, all dressed in costumes and waiting for their parents to return home.
"They kept reassuring 'My parents will be here soon, they went to the store to get more candy and face makeup; they’ll be right back.'" said Bradley.
They had no family in the area and would have to be turned over to the Department of Family and Child Services while authorities tried to locate a family member.
Watching the children play in the front yard, unaware of their parents' deaths, the trooper said he felt ill. Not only would the children discover they'd lost their parents, but they would spend Halloween in a county jail until someone could tend to them. Trooper Bradley decided to care for the children until their grandmother arrived from Sarasota, Florida, which is a seven hour trip.
"It was touching and I didn't want to leave them there, and I did not want to leave them sitting in a DFACS office, so I did what I thought was right," the trooper said.
He got his supervisor's permission to care for the children, and then took them to get something to eat. Afterwards he brought the children to the GSP Post in Monroe where they were joined by his Corporal's family. They brought the Howard children candy, popcorn and a variety of Disney films. Other residents who heard what happened showed up at the post with goodie bags and toys. Trooper Bradley said the Sheriff also showed up with four buckets filled with candy.
The children's grandmother, Stephanie Oliver, arrived just before dawn. The children were asleep and their grandmother thought it best they not be disturbed. "He kept my grandkids together," she said. "He is a good man, a good man."
The Howard children learned of their parents’ deaths later that day.
"I just, I just couldn't bear it to break the news to them. I wanted to keep their mind as occupied as possible, and with the cooperation of their grandmother, I mean she made me give her my word I would personally look out for them and that's what I did," said Trooper Bradley.
Trooper Bradley has remained in touch with the family and has started a GoFundMe account to help them raise the $7,000 needed to fly their parents bodies back to Florida and cover funeral expenses. By Friday morning, the trooper had raised more than $350,000 on the site.
Oliver told FOX 5's Deidra Dukes she's moved by the support that has followed the wreck.
"They keep saying 'you have more and more and more' and every time I hear 'more' I just want to cry," she said. "I didn't know people I know cared so much. I've never dealt with this. Never, it's just so amazing."