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Town holds vigil for family involved in fatal Fla. crash

Millie Mahoney, 10, attended the Whitman community vigil for the Smith family, who lost four family members in this week's crash in Florida.
Millie Mahoney, 10, attended the Whitman community vigil for the Smith family, who lost four family members in this week's crash in Florida.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

WHITMAN — On cold winter night, hundreds of people gathered on a soccer field at the middle school Friday for a candlelight vigil to remember four members of the Smith and Fay families killed in a horrific car crash near Disney World in Florida.

Eleven-year-old Jaxon Smith, his 5-year-old sister Scarlett, and their mother, Julie Smith, 41, of Whitman died in the crash on Tuesday along with their grandmother, Josephine Fay, 76, of Weymouth.

“Smith” was spelled out in white letters on a chain link fence surrounding the field where people gathered for the vigil organized by the town’s youth soccer association.

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“There are no words to take away grief,” a clergy member said to the crowd, many of whom wept openly. “There are no words to cleanse our pain and sorrow. Each and every person has been touched by these families and understand the true tragedy of what happened. We all have the ability to keep them alive in our heart.”

Julie Smith’s husband, Shane, 43, and her father, William Fay, 76, have been discharged from the hospital, family friend Michael Finn said Friday night. Shalie Smith, 10, and Skylar Smith, 5, were uninjured.

The family had traveled to Florida for the February school vacation week. The crash happened around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on Route 429 in Kissimmee, about 10 miles away from Disney World. The family was traveling in a van, which had slowed in congested traffic when it was rear-ended by a pickup truck operated by Lucas Dos Reis Laurindo, officials said.

The crash remains under investigation, but charges are expected, law enforcement officials said.

The tragedy has deeply shaken residents of this community about 25 miles south of Boston.

“This is just so devastating," said Kathryn Jernsted, a resident who did not know the family personally. "You know every parent dreams of taking their kids to Disney, so for it to end like this is just devastating.”

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Jaxon Smith was a sixth-grader at Whitman Middle School. His soccer coach, Stephanie McCabe, was one of five people who spoke during the hourlong vigil.

Her voice breaking, McCabe recalled an end-of-season game pitting adults versus kids. At one point, she faced off against Jaxon, who shot the ball around her.

She fell, injuring an ankle. Jaxon would come up to her at practice every day and ask her, “How’s your ankle, coach?”

“I never thought this scar on my ankle would mean so much to me,” McCabe said.

After she spoke, the crowd raised their candles and said in unison, “How’s your ankle, coach?” a final tribute to Jaxon.