SANTA BRINGS JOY IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­news.com

Ed­i­tor’s note:

Few sto­ries we’ve heard are as tragic as the one that saw a wife lose her hus­band on a wed­ding an­niver­sary and two sons lose their fa­ther on a trip to see Santa. Our re­porter Am­ber Pittman was moved to or­ga­nize a spe­cial Christ­mas gift for the griev­ing Evans fam­ily. She con­tacted and co­or­di­nated with the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment and the lo­cal Cov­ing­ton Santa to sur­prise the fam­ily with gifts and some Christ­mas joy in the midst of a tragedy.

What started 20 years ago ended trag­i­cally Mon­day evening when Christo­pher Tyler Evans was killed in a car ac­ci­dent in Athens. In a story that keeps get­ting sad­der, Evans’ chil­dren Joel and Chase were af­forded a moment of joy with a home visit from Santa - the big man they were on the way to visit when their fa­ther’s life was cut trag­i­cally short.

Known as Tyler to his friends, the 37-year-old, along with his wife Sab­rina and his two boys - Joel, 7, and Chase, 5, - were on their way to visit Santa and to cel­e­brate the cou­ple’s 14-year an­niver­sary at Carrabba’s Ital­ian Grill - his fa­vorite restau­rant, when life changed for­ever.

Ac­cord­ing to ar­ti­cle by The Athens Ban­ner-Her­ald, Evans was killed shortly af­ter 6 p.m., when the car he was rid­ing in turned into the path of an on­com­ing Jeep, which struck the car and killed Evans.

The driver of the Jeep was a 16-year-old Oconee County High School stu­dent who was leav­ing a vol­un­teer ac­tiv­ity and head­ing to his job at a nurs­ing home, ac­cord­ing to The Ban­ner-Her­ald.

Evans’ wife, who was driv­ing the car, and his two sons were treated at Athens Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter and re­leased Mon­day night, The Ban­ner-Her­ald re­ported. The teen re­port­edly suf­fered only mi­nor in­juries.

“I heard my son scream from the back­seat that he couldn’t breathe,” said Sab­rina, her

voice catch­ing. “I made my­self get out of the car and get to him and I didn’t get to my hus­band.”

Tyler and Sab­rina were high school sweet­hearts who met while at­tend­ing the same school in Louisiana. They mar­ried in 1998. The cou­ple had lived with his par­ents for a decade and had just pur­chased their first home.

“He was such a lov­ing hus­band,” Sab­rina re­mem­bered.

“This is a story that just got sad­der,” Athens-Clarke po­lice Lt. Don Eckert told the Ban­ner-Her­ald. “It was a tough ac­ci­dent to work.”

But Thurs­day, a dark time had a lit­tle bit of sun­shine come through when Santa vis­ited the boys at their home. With the as­sis­tance of the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment’s Po­lice Who Care Fund, the fam­ily was given nearly $1,000 worth of gifts. Some of them toys for Joel and Chase to open on Christ­mas, some for them to open on their birthdays, on the 21st and 31st of this month. Sa- brina was also given roughly $100 in gift cards to lo­cal busi­nesses that she could use for her­self and the boys.

When they opened the front door and saw Santa stand­ing there with a big present to open right away, Joel beamed and Chase looked a lit­tle over­whelmed, but the two sat next to the big guy as he showed them some of his se­cret good­ies, like his spe­cial magic key and pocket watch. They each agreed to go to bed early on Christ­mas Eve and to leave Santa a spe­cial treat - choco­late milk - so that he could al­ways re­mem­ber their house.

“I hope you both have a won­der­ful Christ­mas, and God bless you and your fam­ily,” Santa told them, a sad smile on his cheer­ful face, be­fore he left. The boys made sure to give thanks and hugs to ev­ery of­fi­cer and Cov­ing­ton Po­lice em­ployee who had come to de­liver presents be­fore they left, leav­ing even the most hard­ened law en­force­ment of­fi­cers with tears in their eyes.

“He loved them boys,” said Sab­rina cry­ing. “The boys were his life. He loved them more than any­body in the world.”

Pho­tos by Rachel Goff /The Cov­ing­ton News

Chase, 5, and Joel, 7, speak with Capt. Ken Mal­com shortly af­ter be­ing sur­prised by Santa and presents. The boys lost their fa­ther Mon­day in a tragic ac­ci­dent.

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