CALLAHAN, Fla. - PHOTO GALLERY: Callahan mom, 2 kids killed after car strikes alligator
A family from Callahan was killed early Monday morning in Orangeburg, S.C. when their vehicle struck a 9-foot alligator in the middle of the road on Interstate 95, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Amber Stanley’s husband shared these photos of his wife & children who were killed in a crash in South Carolina.— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) May 8, 2018
Autumn was only 2 years old, & Jack was just 4. So tragic.
Troopers say they hit a 9-foot gator on I-95 North & lost control. @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/0LaCBIVz8E
Amber Stanley, 24; her 4-year-old son Jack and her 2-year-old daughter Autumn, all of Callahan; died from their injuries due to the vehicle fire.
South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers said the crash occurred around 12:49 a.m. Monday in the northbound lane of I-95 when the family's 2011 Kia Soul struck the alligator in the road.
Josh Stanley, Amber's husband and the father of Jack and Autumn, said his family was returning from a weekend in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Stanley said that he and Amber were high school sweethearts at Yulee High School.
"She was the love of my life," Stanley said. "We would’ve been together coming up on 10 years."
Stanley couldn't go to the beach with his wife and children because he had to attend work training out of state.
"When I landed in Atlanta, I couldn’t get a hold of her," Stanley said. "The last thing I said was, ‘I love you, and I’ll talk to you later.’
"The last time I talked to my kids is when I was leaving. I hugged them and I said I loved them and I’d see them in a week -- and I was going to miss them."
Troopers said after the car hit the gator, it ran off the left side of the road hitting a tree and caught on fire.
A detailed crash report has not yet been released.
TRAGIC.#Callahan mother and two children- just 2 and 4 years old- killed in fiery crash in #SouthCarolina. Troopers there say Amber Stanley, 24, struck a 9-foot gator on I-95 and her car ended up in the trees early Monday morning.@ActionNewsJax is live at noon.— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) May 8, 2018
Josh Stanley is now his family's sole survivor.
On Tuesday afternoon, he was at Ewing Park, a place he and his wife and children visited often.
“It’s been hard. I mean, I know it happened. I’m still kind of processing though. I’ll be walking around and I’ll just, like, see something out of the corner of my eye, I go, ‘that’s Amber,’ and I know it’s not, but it’s just the first thing my brain goes to. Or, some kids say ‘dad’ or something,” he said.
Stanley said the last time he saw his children, he was hugging them, letting them know he’d miss them while he’d be away for work.
But later, he’d quickly realize something was wrong when he couldn’t reach his wife, Amber, during his layover.
“When I landed in Atlanta, I just couldn’t get a hold of her,” Stanley said. “The last thing I said was, ‘I love you, and I’ll talk to you later.’ But I think that’s what you kind of expect, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll talk to you later.’ You don’t expect something like this to happen.”
Stanley is left with questions he knows he may never get answered.
Josh: “I’ll hear some kid say ‘dad’ or something, and I’ll turn around and it’s not Jack or Autumn, but for a split second it’s just like, sort of like my brain expects them to be there...It has just been really hard.”— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) May 8, 2018
STORY: https://t.co/fHnhMjuiWd @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/OxydtoVs3j
“Everybody keeps saying, ‘If you need anything, let me know,” Stanley said. “I don’t really need anything. I’d love to have my family back, but obviously, nobody can do that.”
Josh Stanley said his wife loved animals, loved to visit the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and had a zoo membership. A memorial for the family will be held at the zoo at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, which is Mother's Day and also would have been Amber's birthday.
Josh: "I’ll be walking around, and I’ll just like see somebody out of the corner of my eye, like, 'Oh that’s Amber,' but I know it’s not. That’s just the first thing my brain goes to."— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) May 8, 2018
Heartbreaking. @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/AJJGr9AtNr
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