Tears flow for Va. friends of 5 who died in Md. crash

Funding one funeral is hard enough. Paying for five is another matter altogether.

Friends and acquaintances of an Accomack County family killed in a crash in Maryland during the weekend returned to school and work Monday still trying to fathom the loss.

They also have started a fund to help the remaining family members with the expense of holding multiple funerals in the upcoming days.

The five victims, one of whom was pregnant, were on their way to her baby shower when their car collided with a tractor-trailer at a signaled intersection in Wye Mills, Maryland.

Geneva Pope of Baltimore had been friends with the pregnant victim, Zarissa Ayres, 30, for around six years. She met Ayres, who worked until August at a mental health rehabilitation services business headquartered in McLean, Virginia, when the Eastern Shore of Virginia native was living and working in the area.

On Monday, Pope started an online fundraiser for the victims’ funeral expenses.

On Tuesday, she still found it difficult to speak of the loss through her tears.

“It’s costly. I can’t imagine how they’ll struggle with paying for five funerals,” Pope said.

Donations to the Ayres Family Memorial Fund may be made at http://www.gofundme.com/jzlt28.

Also killed in the crash were Zarissa Ayres’ sister, Regina M. Ayres, 24, of Greenbush; Regina’s boyfriend, Travis M. Stratton, 25, of Onancock; their 4-month-old son, Jonathan Ayres; and Regina’s daughter, Jordan Ayres, 7.

Jordan was a student at Accawmacke Elementary School. Regina and Zarissa Ayres and Travis Stratton all graduated from Nandua High School.

Jordan also was a member of Girl Scout Troop 1456.

On Monday, Accomack County Public Schools made crisis teams available at both Accawmacke Elementary School and Nandua High School to work with students and staff who knew the victims.

“Our school system is a family, and nothing is more important than family. To lose members of that family in such a tragic way brings grief beyond words,” said Accomack County School Superintendent Kregg Cuellar.

Cuellar remembered Jordan Ayres as “a marvelous student, loved by everyone in her school. … She was simply amazing.”

The loss of so many so suddenly has left the tight-knit community in shock.

“Trying to wrap our head around this is just impossible,” Cuellar said.

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