SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. —
A Shasta County family and their friends share heart-warming stories just days after losing their loved one, Sam Franklin, in a rare crash on Sunday.
"If I could, I would say I love you and thank you," said his daughter Sarah Rose Franklin.
Sarah is 13-years-old and was in the passenger seat at the time. Officials say a tree fell onto their SUV and caused the vehicle to travel out of control into another tree in Millville. The incident would kill Sam and injure Sarah.
"We believe that because he's a big guy, he stretched over here and protected her from the tree," said Sam's wife, Molly Franklin. "He was always like that, a protector. Sam was the kind of guy that would do anything for anybody, especially if it involved his kids."
For now, the family is hanging on to memories.
"He actually battled testicular cancer for a bit, lost his father in 2017. It wasn't easy, but he was always there for us," said Molly. "He loved his kids and was passionate about them."
Sam worked as a contractor and was the best in the Northstate, if you ask his family.
"Sam was the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back," said Sam's ex-wife, Rose Burke.
Rose and Molly say this unfortunate event has brought them together as a family, for the kids.
"That's what they need, right now, and that's what they have: family," said Molly.
When asked what Sarah would say to her father if she had one last moment with him, she said she would tell him she loves him and thank you.
The family is planning a candlelight vigil to honor the memory of Sam on Sat., Dec. 17, at 5 p.m. at the crash site in Millville.
The family is inviting anyone who wants to come out.
They also have started a memorial fund for Sam at the local Umpqua Bank. They say you can donate through the username at @samfranklinmemorialfund.
Molly says all of the money goes to either the funeral costs or the kids education.
"We have been amazed at how good the community has been to us. The kids need that and we need that," said Molly.