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Family mourns 2 killed in crash coming back from chemotherapy treatment

Autumn Ward, 15, of Newport, and Jeff Mardis, 52, of Walton
Posted at 4:54 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 20:43:00-05

NEWPORT, Ky. — The community is coming together to support a local family after two members are killed and a third seriously injured in a car crash.

Autumn Ward, 15, of Newport, and Jeff Mardis, 52, of Walton, were killed Friday. According to The Boone County Sheriff’s Office, their car was rear ended while stopped at an exit ramp on I-75. Wendy Ward, the driver of the car, was airlifted to UCMC. She is suffering from broken ribs and a fractured spine. Ward, is the mother of Autumn and sister of Mardis.

“It is very hard. I feel like honestly I am still personally in shock and haven’t really processed any of it,” said Mikayla Mardis, daughter of Jeff Mardis.

Mikayla told WCPO her father was suffering from stage four lung cancer. The family was on the way home from a chemotherapy treatment when the crash happened.

“He didn’t know a stranger. We could be in the grocery store and he would be like, ‘hey, how are you doing?’ He could talk to anybody. He loved being outside. We would go camping every year. He loved fishing. Fishing was the big thing,” she said.

“We miss her. It’s hard with her not being here,” said Ward, speaking about Autumn. “She was a very lovable, she left an imprint on everybody she met. She was very adventurous always wanting to try new things,” she said.

RELATED: 2 killed in crash on Newport ramp

Now, the community is coming together to help raise money for funeral costs.

All week long, Rage and Mane Hair Company in Newport will donate 50% of its profits directly to the family.

“They were just out for a drive, together as a family. You don’t expect not to come home with your child. (Autumn) was just a client of mine, she was a sweet kid. Money shouldn’t be the thing the daily is worrying about right now,” said owner Cierra O’Banion.

O’Banion said people can call and book an appointment, or simply stop in the salon this week. People can also donate money to two GoFundMe accounts set up for Jeff and Autumn.

“You don’t necessarily know all of your neighbors but there are a lot of people willing to help if you can get the word out. If there’s a reason to do it, this is a darn good reason,” said O’Banion.

Mikayla said in the wake of his death, her father would want people to live life to the fullest.

“Live life while you can. Everyday once he got diagnosed, he would wake up every morning to say thank you God for another beautiful day, whether it was raining cats or dogs or nice outside," she said.

To make an appointment at Rage and Mane, call 859-414-0404.

To donate to Autumn’s funeral expenses visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/9jms3n-autumns-funeral-expenses

To donate to Jeff’s cremation expenses visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/funeral-expenses-for-jeff-mardis