Firefighters in Newaygo County are heartbroken for their brother and friend, Andrew Bird -- he lost both his boys in a Florida crash during the weekend.
The boys' mother, 33-year-old Tonya Capallia-Eason, was driving them, their sister and five other children home from a Halloween party Saturday, Oct. 22, in Fernandia Beach, Fla.
The car crashed, killing the boys: 9-year-old Nicholai and 8-year-old Nehemiah. Their 7-year-old sister, Nina, was taken to the hospital for treatment.
WZZM 13 sister station WTLV in Florida reports friends said Capallia-Eason was drinking heavily at the party, contributing to the crash.
As soon as people in the Newaygo area heard about the tragedy, they acted quickly. They arranged and paid for a Florida trip for Bird, who left on Sunday and remains there Wednesday.
They then set up a GoFundMe page for burial costs and medical expenses and in about 24 hours. It has collected nearly $7,000.
Jason Wolford, the Newaygo fire chief, has known Bird for more than 10 years.
"I couldn't believe it," Wofford said. "As a parent myself, I couldn't imagine what was going through their minds and obviously we all see a fair amount of tragedy in emergency services, but this is completely different when it hits this close to home."
Fellow firefighter Travis Kroll said Bird is dedicated to his community, so helping him out was no issue.
"It really shows that Newaygo County is a very giving community, the people here cherish friendships and relationships," he said.
No charges have been issued against Capallia-Eason, but they are possible once an investigation is finished, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.