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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Tragic Road Trip Accident Leaves 5 Children Parentless

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Last Thursday, husband and wife Jake and Jessica Woodruff were celebrating Jessica’s 45th birthday with a road trip along the coast. They set out from Yreka, California, headed to Oregon.

As they drove through the redwood-lined Highway 199 in a 2016 Honda Accord on Thursday, one of the enormous trees fell on top of their car, crushing them.

It was a freak accident, and no one really knows what caused the horrible incident.

“This is a very forested area,” officer and California Highway Patrol spokesperson Brandy Gonzalez said, according to SF Gate. “We have trees everywhere. It’s in the middle of the redwoods. It’s just old growth and we have no idea why the tree fell. It was Mother Nature.”

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“The timing of everything was very, very unusual. I’ve been on the department for 19 years and I’ve been in this area 12 to 13 years and it’s very unusual. We’ve had trees fall down and cars make contact, but this kind of incident is very unusual.”

A forecaster with the local weather service, Ryan Aylward, echoed the sentiment that the occurrence was highly uncommon.

“There were some gustier winds on the coast, but it was only to about 25 mph,” he explained. “This is farther inland and can be more protected. There’s no wind sensor right there but nearby Gasquet had winds to 9 mph.

“Normally at those wind speeds you don’t expect damage, but that doesn’t mean a lighter breeze can’t knock down a tree. There’s nothing to say it was weather related.

“There’s nothing in the data that can say it was. It wasn’t something that jumped out to us as a wind-related incident.”

The couple leaves behind five children — Megan, Evan, Casey, Allie and Chelsea — according to a GoFundMe page set up for them.


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“Wow, you all are so incredibly generous, and on behalf of the Shinar/Woodruff and Honey family, thank you SO much for your donations, condolences, and sentimental words,” an update on the page by organizer Amanda Maffei read.

Emma Miravalle Hood, a family cousin and one of the people running the GoFundMe page, told Wild Rivers Outpost that the parents had been soul mates and that the oldest two siblings have taken on the task of caring for the younger three. So far the campaign has raised over $200,000 to further that goal.

“The two adult children are from Jessica’s prior marriage and they have immediately stepped up to take on raising their younger siblings that share Jake and Jessica as parents,” Miravalle wrote. “This family and these parents were such a humble, fun loving pair that knew they were soulmates at the moment they met.”

“It will be with every ounce of power for the three little ones to stay together and continue to be raised by their elder (and amazingly strong and selfless) siblings, Megan and Evan,” Maffei continued in the page update. “As we can all imagine it is going to be a very trying and difficult job to try and keep a sense of normalcy for these children, so all of your efforts mean the world.

“Thank you all for sharing, and the amazing support you’ve shown already to this family. It is beyond heartwarming.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking