LINCOLN, Calif. — A day of celebration ultimately ended in tragedy for a family in Lincoln.
A mother and her four-year-old son, Easton, were involved in an accident that sent the child to the hospital, but the mother, Ashlee Rhodes, didn't survive.
"It kills you to see your baby hurting, and you can't take the pain away," said Travis Nunes, Easton's father and husband to Rhodes.
The crash happened at Lincoln Boulevard and Ferrari Ranch Road Monday afternoon. Rhodes and her son were travelling along the roadway when a train collided with their car, pushing it along the tracks before it fell near Auburn Ravine.
Rhodes died at the scene while Easton was taken to the UC Davis Trauma Center. The four-year-old is in critical condition with two broken femurs, contusions in his lungs and bruising all over his body.
The crash happened while the two were coming home from a "mommy-and-me" bowling date.
"My wife was the best mother in the world, and she protected her babies through anything and was overly careful with them," Nunes said.
Nunes said he hasn't been able to properly grieve his wife, who he described as a selfless woman who made friends everywhere she went. For now, his priority is his children and making sure his child comes home.
"He's a fighter just like his mom was," Nunes said.
Nunes has been by his son's bedside at the hospital. On Thursday, he told him what happened to his mother.
"He didn't say much. His eyes started tearing him. His lip quivered. His lower lip quivered, and he just rolled over to his side and I could clearly see he's depressed. He lost his mommy and his best friend," Nunes said.
Through the pain, Nunes said the outpour of community support has kept him uplifted. A GoFundMe to help with funeral, medical and recovery expenses raised more than $100,000 dollars in a day.
"I appreciate every single person and I love everyone who has given anything, whether it be their time or their money because, moving forward, this is going to be a struggle," he said.
Meanwhile, Union Pacific officials said initial investigation reports indicate the railroad crossing gates were lowered and functioning as intended. Community members have raised concerns about the crossing, and Nunes said he will fight for answers
"You better believe we are going to look into this. She's irreplaceable. The fact that my son is alive is a miracle, and I'm thankful that I get to - most likely - we are going to bring him home," Nunes said.
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