On what was to be one of the happiest days in the lives of one Illinois couple, tragedy suddenly struck.
Jana Miles-Burnett, 40, exchanged vows with William Burnett, 31, at the city park in Buckner, Illinois, on Nov. 7, The Southern Illinoisan reports. The park was filled with smiles and laughter as the couple promised to cherish each other until their last days.
“The wedding was filled with the most laughter I’d ever seen in my life,” Miles-Burnett’s daughter, Sara Simillie, told The Southern Illinoisan.
According to Smillie, her mother fell in love with Burnett so quickly after meeting several months ago that they decided to get married as soon as they could. She said they shared a similar sense of humor and loved to be around each other.
“I hadn’t seen her that happy in a long time,” Smillie added about her mother, unable to hold in her tears.
After the wedding ceremony, Jana and her new husband hopped onto his motorcycle and drove away from the park to Ground Zero Bar, where they were going to meet their friends and family for the reception.
Soon after, things took a turn for the worse. The newly-married couple struck a deer on the motorcycle while driving on Illinois 14. According to state police, a deer ran onto the road in front of Burnett’s motorcycle, leaving him no time to react. The bride, still in her wedding dress, was thrown from the vehicle.
Some of the couple’s friends and family members who were also headed to the reception were not far behind and witnessed the accident.
When emergency crews arrived, Miles-Burnett was still alive, though seriously injured. Tragically, she didn’t make it. She was pronounced dead at 8:04 p.m. at Franklin Hospital in Benton, Illinois.
According to police, William Burnett suffered minor injuries in the accident and has already been treated and released from the hospital.
Miles-Burnett is survived by her husband, her daughter Sarah Smillie, 22, and her son Cody Miles, 14.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help the family with Miles-Burnett’s funeral costs.
“Jana brought smiles and laughter to everybody she met and she deserves nothing but the best memorial that we can give the surviving family,” Khole Smillie, Miles-Burnett's son-in-law, wrote on the GoFundMe page.