Jeffrey Morris Brasher was heading in to work. Austin, his son, was headed home after a night of partying with friends. At 4:10 a.m. on Saturday morning, the trucks they were driving collided head-on.
Jeffrey, a 50-year-old independent bread distributor, was killed instantly, police said. Austin, 22, was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he fought for his life for nearly five hours before succumbing to his injuries.
According to relatives and friends of the Brashers, Saturday’s accident has left the tight-knit communities of Fayette and Bankston, Alabama, reeling. Signs have been hung throughout the area, asking passersby to pray for the Brashers as they recover from an unimaginable loss.
“You really just cannot imagine it,” Pamela Brasher Dennis, Jeff’s sister and Austin’s aunt, tells PEOPLE. “There are no words that can be said. Everybody’s life changed on Saturday morning. No one’s life will be the same after this.”
Investigators in Alabama say alcohol played a considerable role in Saturday’s horrific head-on crash. But relatives tell PEOPLE Jeff was not a drinker.
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“Austin did drink and was coming home from partying when they crashed,” says Monica Marie Aker, one of Austin’s cousins. “To know that they collided head-on is one of the hardest things to comprehend. Our whole community is just devastated by this.”
Aker tells PEOPLE that Saturday’s fatal crash caps what has been a tumultuous year for the family. She says that Austin’s mother, Pamela, has been battling cancer and that his sister, Jennifer, only just recovered from a recent car accident she had been involved in.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Aker says. “It is hard to know they are gone … thousands of people loved them.”
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Dennis says that a joint funeral is planned for this Wednesday afternoon. Wakes for the father and son will be held Tuesday evening, with large crowds expected for both.
“We are just so blessed,” Dennis starts. “Yes, we are struggling but we have been covered in prayer. People from all over the country have been reaching out to express their support. It has really helped us as we try to make sense out of the senseless.”
A Loving Dad, a Popular Son
Dennis tells PEOPLE Jeffrey and Austin were “very close.” The two could often be seen together on the local golf course, trying to improve their handicaps. Jeff, she says, was known throughout the community for his volunteerism, serving as the public address announcer for the local middle school’s football games.
“He loved being a husband and father,” Dennis says. “We need to hold on tight to our faith. We love Austin and Jeff and our family will never be the same. We want everyone to hug and spend time with their families. Love your family every day. Don’t let anything go unsaid. You never know what tomorrow will bring.”
Aker described Jeff as “the kind of guy who, if you needed something, you’d go to him because he would help. He wanted to make you smile and his kids were his number one priority.”
Austin, according to Aker, was known as “the life of the party.”
“In high school, he was quiet, but everyone knew who he was,” Aker says. “He was the little guy driving the big truck. He was very well-liked and could really get along with anybody.”
Aker says that part of her is relieved her cousin didn’t survive Saturday’s accident.
“My worst fear was that Austin would make it through and then kill himself because he wouldn’t have been able to deal with killing his father,” she explains. “It would have destroyed him.”