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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Fundraiser launched for Eustis family killed in crash and surviving 11-year-old son

A fundraiser has been launched to help pay for the funeral expenses of a Eustis couple and their 13-year-daughter who were killed in a Christmas Eve crash in Leesburg and to help support their 11-year-son who is recovering from critical injuries.

A celebration of life will be held Monday, Dec. 30 for Christopher, Jessica and Haley Smith. It will take place from 1-3 p.m. at the Hamlin & Hilbish Funeral Chapel, located at 326 E. Orange Ave. in Eustis.

Jessica and Christopher Smith with their daughter, Haley.

Christopher and Jessica Smith were killed in a Christmas Eve crash in Leesburg at the intersection of State Road 44 and Dozier Circle. Haley succumbed to her injuries on Christmas morning at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, where her 11-year-old critically injured brother, Hunter, is recovering from facial and shoulder injuries and has been surrounded by family members around the clock.

Christopher Smith and his son, Hunter.

Christopher, 44, had worked at the Leesburg Wal-Mart and is being remembered by his colleagues as a boss they could count on. Jessica, 35, previously worked at Wal-Mart but since October 2015 had been employed by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, with her latest assignment being that of a classification specialist. The news of her tragic death rocked her law enforcement colleagues, with Sheriff Billy Woods saying he was heartbroken to hear the tragic news and offering prayers for Hunter’s recovery.

Christopher’s sister, Laurie Smith, has launched a fundraiser on Facebook to help pay for final expenses and to offer support for Hunter going forward. Late Friday night, 156 people had donated $7,943 toward the goal of $10,000.

Those interested in donating to the fundraiser can click HERE.

On Friday, Laurie offered words of thanks to those who had come forward to help.

“I cannot thank everyone enough for their donations,” she wrote on Facebook. “Trying to plan 3 funerals between 2 families is not easy. But we will come together and be there for Hunter and make sure he is okay, because that is what Jessica and Chris would have wanted.”

This crash at the intersection of State Road 44 and Dozier Court in Leesburg, which was photographed by a passing motorist, left a Eustis couple dead on Christmas Eve.

The crash took place around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday when the Smith’s 2018 Toyota passenger car was broadsided by a 2019 black Dodge Ram pickup driven by 33-year-old Zachary Waldo, of Mount Dora. Waldo had been traveling east on SR 44 and slammed into the Smith’s vehicle while Christopher was making a left turn onto Dozier Circle, presumably for the family to enjoy looking at Christmas lights in the Venetian Gardens area.

Waldo and his passenger, 33-year-old Kevin Cunningham, of Tavares, were transported to Ocala Regional Medical Center for further treatment. Their conditions weren’t available Saturday.

It remains unknown which driver had the green light for the right-of-way. Traffic investigators from the Leesburg Police Department are continuing their investigation by recovering audio/video discovered in the area from the time of the crash, interviewing family members and potential witnesses, performing vehicle inventories and other evidence processing.

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