By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota family is dealing with a heartbreaking loss after a crash in Iowa.

Two-year-old Aurora Wheeler died Monday when a semi rear-ended the car she was riding in with her parents. It happened about 30 miles west of Des Moines, Iowa. Her family was finishing up a trip to watch the solar eclipse.

“Just a beautiful happy bouncing ray of sunshine,” Lori Reese, a family friend and co-worker of Aurora’s father, said of the young girl. “She was already counting way higher than she should have been at her age.”

Reese has fond memories of Aurora, but it’s what happened to the young girl recently that’s stuck on her mind.

“I feel like I’ve been through a lot of experiences at this age and losses and deaths, but nothing compares to this,” she said.

The Wheelers were driving through Iowa Monday along Interstate 80, heading home after watching the solar eclipse.

“There was an accident ahead of them and they came over a hill,” Reese said.

Investigators said the Wheelers had slowed to a stop, but a semi-truck behind them did not. It rear-ended them, pushing the Wheelers’ vehicle into another car. Reese said she got a text from Isaac about what happened.

“It’s even hard to read it now,” she said of the text. “He just said he’s in a bad accident and Aurora was dead.”

Isaac’s wife Bethany was taken to a hospital in a Lifeline helicopter. She’s expected make a full recovery.

But healing the emotional pain might be even more difficult for their family.

“Their world came crashing down,” Reese said.

At the very least, a GoFundMe page has started that process for Isaac. It’s raised more than $20,000 in one day to help the family pay for funeral expenses, medical expenses, and time off work for the Wheelers.

“[Isaac is] amazed and surprised and so, so grateful,” Reese said.

But the road ahead is a nightmare the Wheelers never expected to navigate.

“There’s just no way to explain the loss of a child,” she said.

A third car was involved in the crash. That driver as well as the semi-truck driver were not hurt. Investigators are working to determine if charges will be filed against the truck driver.


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