Mesquite ISD officials have confirmed that two district educators and their one-year-old child were killed Saturday afternoon when their car slammed into the back of an 18-wheeler on Interstate 30 in East Texas.
Texas Department of Safety officials said the flatbed trailer was stopped on the shoulder of the highway about 10 miles east of Mt. Pleasant at midafternoon Saturday when the car with James and Leah Eason and their two children crashed into it.
Luke Eason, one, was killed in the crash. The Easons' four-year-old son, Jace, survived the impact, but was injured and hospitalized in stable condition.
Leah Eason was assistant principal at Florence Black Elementary School. Her husband taught fifth grade students at B.J. Smith Elementary. Counselors will be available at both schools on Monday.
The Easons lived in Rockwall's Turtle Cove community.
"Just really a sweet family... nice and friendly," said neighbor Miranda Linane. "It's totally devastating."
Faculty members at both schools met Sunday to comfort one another, said Mesquite ISD spokeswoman Laura Jobe.
"Family time was very important to them," Jobe said, adding that the Easons were just starting a vacation trip.
Funeral arrangements are pending, Jobe added.
Students and parents at Smith Elementary erected a makeshift memorial to the Eason family outside the school with flowers, notes, and photos.
"All I keep thinking is how tragic it is to lose one person... but to lose an entire family? For this community, it's heart-wrenching," said parent Tricia Claiborne.
The district's Facebook page was filled with prayers for the Eason family and tributes from parents and colleagues.
"Several children at my church were just devastated this morning," said a post from Teresa Jackson. "Such a horrible tragedy that will touch the lives of so many people."
"The parents and kids of Smith are praying for Mr. Eason's family, his son, and their teachers," added Gina Wadhams. "He is well-loved at Smith by all and has blessed my family and many more."
Our hearts are broken over the sudden and tragic loss of these two special educators and their youngest son, and our thoughts are with their families during this time. Leah and Jim profoundly impacted those who were privileged to know them. Words cannot express how much they will be missed.
Leah’s personality and contagious smile brightened her campus every day. She encompassed the perfect balance of leadership and friendship and was always open to building relationships with the staff and students. Leah was a huge part of the strong foundation at Florence Black Elementary. The staff at the school considered Jim, Leah, Jace, and Luke part of their family, and as they move forward, it will be with heavy hearts.
Jim was an excellent teacher whose strength was building relationships with students. He could make connections with students when no one else could. Jim always used humor in class and would tell stories using the students as characters to engage them and help them understand the lessons. He was a good role model, especially for his male students, and set high expectations for learning and treating others with kindness and respect.