When a California family left their house to celebrate their daughter’s birthday, they had no idea their worst nightmare would come alive just three hours later. A devastating incident soon turned their lives upside down.
Ashlee Rhodes and Travis Nunes lived in Lincoln, California, with their children, Bradlee and Easton Nunes. Rhodes was a full-time mother and a business owner known for her infectious smile, kindness, and compassion.
Rhodes and Travis worked hard to provide their children the best of everything. They were often seen spending time with their children, but no one knew a heartbreaking incident would soon change their lives forever.
Their Daughter’s Birthday
On September 26, 2022, Rhodes and Travis took their children to a pumpkin patch to celebrate Bradlee’s birthday. Over there, they took many photos together, not knowing those were their last few moments together as a family.
After spending a few hours together, Travis headed home with Bradlee, while Rhodes and Easton went for a bowling date. Rhodes had planned to pick dinner on her way back so the four of them could sit together at the dinner table, but fate had other plans.
More than three hours after leaving the pumpkin patch, Travis felt worried because his wife and son hadn’t returned home. He was unaware that Rhodes and Easton had met a deadly accident a few miles from their home.
The Railroad Crossing
Travis quickly got into his car and took the route his wife would have taken to get back home. His heart skipped a beat when he saw police officers surrounding a crash site near Lincoln Boulevard.
Never in a million years had the father imagined having such a painful conversation with his little children.
When Travis got closer and talked to an officer, he discovered why his wife and son hadn’t returned home. A train struck their car on a railroad crossing on Lincoln Boulevard and Ferrari Ranch Road.
“I regret to inform you that she passed away,” an officer told Travis. The devastated husband rushed to the UC Davis Trauma Center after learning the first responders moved Easton there.
Little Easton was in critical condition in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. The doctors told Travis that his son had two broken femurs and severe lung injuries, but they expected the little boy to recover. Travis said:
“He’s a fighter just like his mom was.”
The Devastated Family
While Travis felt devastated after losing his wife, he had to remain hopeful for his son’s recovery. Since the day Easton was brought to the hospital, Travis stayed by his bedside to look after him.
On September 29, Travis told his son about Rhodes’ passing. The father revealed Easton considered Rhodes his best friend, and the news depressed him. Travis said:
“His eyes started tearing up, his lips quivered.”
After telling Easton about his mother’s death, Travis went home to tell his daughter too. Never in a million years had the father imagined having such a painful conversation with his little children.
Meanwhile, Travis’s family supported him by arranging a fundraiser on GoFundMe. The organizer, Bryan Nunes, asked people to donate to cover the funeral costs and medical bills. He said:
“Ashlee’s passing has left a significant hole in so many of us that words cannot explain, but she left us with many memories.”
“As you might imagine, the families have been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions to make sense of this horrific and tragic loss,” Bryan added. He had aimed to collect $150,000, and the amount has almost been raised as of October 3.
A few days after the accident, the medical staff moved Easton out of the Intensive Care Unit after noticing his significant recovery. While Travis felt better knowing his son was making progress, he missed his wife so much. He said:
“I am going to be strong like Ashlee would want me to be.”
On October 2, Easton was allowed to go home in his wheelchair, but he still couldn’t stand on his feet. However, the doctors were optimistic the little boy would get better soon.
Meanwhile, the authorities investigated the case and said the railroad crossing gates were functioning correctly. However, Travis said he would “look into this” and fight for answers. He added:
“She’s irreplaceable. The fact that my son is alive is a miracle.”
The Selfless Mother
While looking after his children, Travis posted a heartfelt note on his Facebook profile to express his feelings. After thanking people for their immense support during the worst days of his life, he shared what his wife wanted.
Travis felt his son survived because of Rhodes. He believed she “sacrificed herself” when she got into the horrifying accident with Easton and saved her baby’s life.
We extend our deepest condolences to the Nunes family while they grieve Rhodes’ death. We pray that her soul rests in peace and that the family gets the strength to bear this painful loss.
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