U.S. Army Major and 2 of His Children Die in Car Crash While Wife Flies on Plane with Newborn

A 36-year-old father and two of his children were killed in a tragic car crash in Kentucky over Memorial Day weekend, the Kentucky State Police confirms to PEOPLE.

Augustin Gonzalez, a major in the U.S. Army, was driving through Kentucky on Saturday night with his three children, Noelle Gonzalez, 6, Gwendolyn Gonzalez, 2, and Nicholas Gonzalez, 8, when his 2013 Dodge Caravan struck a tow truck that had stopped in the lanes to help a driver who had been involved in a previous crash, according to CBS affiliate WKYT.

“An uninvolved non-injury collision had occurred ahead, and the operator of a 2018 International tow truck owned by Crossroads Towing, equipped with yellow caution emergency lights, had stopped partially in the left lane to assist the involved occupant,” the state police said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the scene, while Noelle and Gwendolyn were taken to two separate hospitals, where they later died. Nicholas, who experienced minor injuries and survived, was hospitalized, the outlet reported.

At the time of the crash, Gonzalez had just celebrated his graduation and was headed to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before he was to report back to his station on Tuesday. His wife, Melissa Gonzalez, and their newborn son, Gabriel, were on a flight en route to meet them, an update from a GoFundMe page set up for the family says. When she arrived at their Colorado home, military officials and family friends were there to meet her and tell her the tragic news.

According to the donation page, Gonzalez has lived in Cary, North Carolina, as he studied to earn his master’s degree in public policy at Duke University. Melissa worked as a second-grade teacher at Horton’s Creek Elementary until the couple welcomed Gabriel, their fourth child, in March.

“He was like full, bright, all the time, so I used to tell my kids you should learn from Augie,” Manaz Kuriyodath, a neighbor of the family, told the news station of Gonzalez.

“Even he goes through all these things — he had school to study, like his wife is not working, a 1-month-old baby, and he still always works out, plays every evening, makes sure he has fun with the kids, so he’s a great dad, a great friend,” she continued.

The donation page set up by the Horton’s Creek Elementary PTA has raised more than $66,000 of its $75,000 goal from more than a thousand donors in just a day’s time.

Many left heartfelt comments to the family, including their memories of Gonzalez.

“Augie and I became friends at the age of 10 through baseball and through our older brothers, Joe and Johnny. I am so grateful for the memories we shared, my dear friend,” wrote one donor. “Melissa, I will pray for you and your family for the rest of my life.”

“Prayers for the family as this is just an unimaginable situation,” wrote another.

Funeral arrangements are still being prepared, an update on the page reads. The remains of Gonzalez and his two children are expected to be flown to New Jersey by the end of the week.

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