CRESCENT CITY, Calif. -- A married couple from Yreka were killed last week when a redwood tree fell on top of their car while they were driving on Highway 199 in Del Norte County. Jessica and Jake Woodruff leave behind five children.
36-year-old Jake and 45-year-old Jessica were driving along U.S. Highway 199 on March 25, heading to celebrate Jessica’s birthday with a trip up the coast. It was an annual tradition for the couple.
According to California Highway Patrol, they were heading southbound through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, just a few miles from the town of Hiouchi, when a large redwood tree fell from the east side of the road — landing on top of their 2016 Honda Accord. Both Jake and Jessica were killed.
“The first thing that went through my mind is there's no way that it's real, and are we sure that this was even something that could happen?” said Amanda Maffei, Jessica’s first cousin.
The two were married almost 13 years, and their five children range in age from 8 to 24 years old.
“Well, myself, my sister and, and my cousin, Rachel, we all just decided that, you know, from here on out, this is when our family just sticks together and we do whatever we can for these children,” Maffei added.
Now, as families do, loved ones of the Woodruffs are making sure that everyone is cared for. Amanda started a GoFundMe to help with expenses and support. The page has already raised more than $200,000.
“You know, raising children is, is not inexpensive. And for them to have their lives towards sort of . . . completely rocked this way. And now they have the responsibility to look after the little ones we knew it was going to be an incredibly difficult position that they were in. And that's what we decided to do, by starting the GoFundMe," Maffei said.
“I think that they're going to find strengths within each other," Maffei continued. "They're going to look out for each other and, you know, just the generosity of so many different communities and the support that they've received. I'm hoping that they find strength in that as well.”
While the tragedy that claimed the lives of Jake and Jessica Woodruff happened near the southern end of Redwood Highway in California, it marked the beginning of a deadly two days on the highway as a whole. 35-year-old Paul Taylor was killed in a crash near Cave Junction the next morning. A few hours later, Oregon State Police said that another crash near Wonder eventually resulted in the death of an infant child who was brought to OHSU in Portland for treatment.