This is an updated version of an earlier story.
The sudden and forever taking of a young child out from the loving arms of her mom and dad thundered throughout the county last week with a terrifying crash.
Charlie Cate Odom, 5, daughter of Levi and Collette Odom, of Eastpoint, passed away early Friday morning, Nov. 5, days after suffering critical injuries in a collision Monday afternoon of four cars as each traveled eastbound off the Gorrie Bridge and on into Eastpoint.
At about 3:30 p.m. the car, driven by her aunt Holly Odom, in which Charlie Cate was securely buckled in in the back seat, along with her 11-year-old cousin, had stopped, along with two vehicles, a pick-up truck and an SUV ahead of it, to accommodate a vehicle pulling a boat that was making a turn across the westbound lane.
The SUV was driven by a 69-year-old woman, with an 11-year-old girl passenger, both from Carrabelle, and the pickup truck was driven by a 28-year-old woman, and carrying a 9-year-old boy, a 6-year-old girl, and an infant girl, all from Apalachicola.
The pick-up truck, driven by a 43-year-old man from Floral City, failed to stop, according to the report from the Florida Highway Patrol, and collided with the Odoms’ vehicle, pushing it into the guard rail.
The truck also hit the other pickup truck that was in the eastbound lane, sending it into the rear of the SUV in front
Two others of the 10 people involved in the crash required medical treatment. Holly Odom sustained a fractured left ankle and a sprained right ankle, a significant concussion, and swelling to her back. Madelyn Paul sustained neck and back issues.
The seriousness of Charlie Cate’s injuries was apparent from the moment she was life flighted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.
Social media swiftly flashed with images of a chubby-cheeked child with blonde ringlets and a broad grin, who a family friend described as “a sweet, sassy, beautiful, bossy, amazing baby girl,” as prayer chains strained with anguish.
Jimmy Sapp, the Eastpoint restaurateur who each Thanksgiving offers free holiday meals for the community, asked that donations be provided this holiday for the Odom family.
“She was a special child, loved by everyone,” said Terry Tipton, praise and worship leader at First Pentecostal Holiness Church, where the Odom family is active.
An overflow attendance at the Apalachicola church's celebration of life service, beginning with family visitation at 10 a.m., public visitation at 10:30 a.m. and the service at 11 a.m. is expected for the Wednesday morning service, officiated by Pastor Susan Roach. A gravesite service in Eastpoint is to follow.
Charlie Cate, a Kindergartner at the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, took part in the children’s church and the vacation bible school at Pentecostal Holiness, where both her parents are active as leaders of the youth group.
As a longtime member of the staff at Centennial Bank in Apalachicola, Collette is well-known in the community. Levi’s guitar-playing adds to his role as a worship leader.
“Charlie was special, she was my little preacher, my little worshipper, my El Jalisco partner, and most of all my baby girl,” Levi wrote on his Facebook page, the morning after his daughter had passed away.
“My heart is shattered into a million pieces, I feel so numb and empty because she’s not here physically. Enjoy every single moment and hold your babies tight because I’ll never get to hold my baby girl again.”
A few days later, Levi offered words of gratitude on Facebook to a community whose grief paled to that of his entire family.
“I just have to say that the love, prayers and support from our community and people across this world have been overwhelming in the best way. It does my heart so good to see that our baby girl made such a huge impact in just five-and-a-half short years,” he wrote. “She was so amazing and anyone that ever came in contact with her will never forget her and just how happy she was.
“I believe with all of my heart that she was an angel sent here to do a work and we were the chosen ones to be her parents,” Levi wrote. “We are not sure what her work was right now but we are praying that God will show us. His peace and strength have been with us through this whole journey.
“We could have never made it this far without God, we will not be able to continue without God.”
Sheriff A.J. Smith and deputies will each be wearing a small patch as part of their daily uniform, to honor the memory of Charlie Cate “and the impact she made on others during her short journey on earth,” reads the sheriff’s website,
The idea for the small patch, featuring her name topped with a halo, came from Deputy Coatney, and Sgt. Palmer created the patches on the department’s embroidery machine.
While parking on the right-of-way is forbidden, Smith said he is in talks with the Florida Department of Transportation to place signs underscoring that fact. He also said that a nearby gate, where people often moved off the road to fish or sightsee, continues to be permanently closed.
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