Survivors: Children orphaned after parents killed in wreck

'We will do what we have to do to take care of these kids,' said Shanda Squire, holding her 6-year-old niece Ionia White on Wednesday. Ionia and her brothers, Daquan Gleason and Kamari White, survived the car crash that killed their parents. The children

ST. STEPHEN — Kamari White was the first to know his parents were dead.

The 7-year-old was in the back seat of the family's 2002 Isuzu Rodeo on Sunday night when the vehicle skidded on its side and crashed violently into a utility pole on S.C. Highway 45 in rural Berkeley County. The family said the sport utility vehicle swerved to avoid an oncoming car.

Kamari crawled through the shattered glass and out the back window, but then he heard his 6-year-old sister, Ionia White, calling for him.

'He went back in not only to save his sister — he tried to save all of them,' maternal grandmother Sharon Gleason said.

The second-grader braved live power lines and re-entered the vehicle where he found Ionia. A board had bloodied her eye and her leg was pinned beneath something.

He 'pulled and pulled' Gleason said, until Ionia was free and could crawl out with him.

Kamari attempted to do the same for his 10-year-old brother, Daquan Gleason, but both of his legs were pinned beneath a seat. Firefighters would later pull him out.

Kamari then called out twice for his parents, Michael and Iesha White, who were in the front seats.

They would not answer.

'When they didn't answer, he knew,' Sharon Gleason said.

The wreck left the children orphaned and in the hands of caring relatives with modest means. Iesha and Michael, who had just moved back to the Lowcountry to find jobs, did not have life insurance or insurance on their vehicle, family members said.

As of Wednesday, the families were trying to determine how they would pay for the funeral, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Timberland High School in St. Stephen.

The three children are living with Gleason in her three- bedroom home in St. Stephen that she shares with her husband and 25-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

She wonders where everyone will fit inside the single-story home, but she's determined to keep them together because she knows that's what her daughter would want.

Gleason said it will be tough at times but that the children also will have the love and support of their paternal grandmother and aunts and uncles.

'It will bring our family closer,' said Shanda Squire, Gleason's oldest daughter. 'We will do what we have to do to take care of these kids.'

The family moved to Michael White's mother's home in Pineville in May after he was laid off from his job in Wichita, Kan. Iesha recently took a job as a McDonald's manager, but he was still looking.

Gleason said her daughter and son-in-law were sweet people who loved their children. Michael, she said, treated 10-year-old Daquan like his own son even though he was 2 years old when he met Iesha.

'Michael is the only dad he knew,' Gleason said.

The children sat on Gleason's couch Wednesday, quiet, stoic and occasionally yawning. Kamari and Ionia, who still has a swollen eye and a bandage on her right leg, each held their parents' cell phones, scrolling through images of happier days.

Gleason said the family had visited Lowe's and was on their way back to the house in Pineville about 7:20 p.m. Monday.

The S.C. Highway Patrol says it is still investigating what caused the crash, but 10-year-old Daquan said he saw a silver vehicle enter their lane, causing his mother to swerve out of the way and off the road.

Daquan said the driver of the silver car never stopped. 'He just kept going.'

A second vehicle pulled up and a man told the children he would get help, Daquan said.

The children were taken to the hospital while rescue workers removed their parents from the vehicle once utility workers could secure the pole.

Gleason said 7-year-old Kamari has taken the deaths the hardest but proved just how smart, strong and brave the children are.

She plans to stay strong for them.

'When I have my little moments I go off in a bedroom or a bathroom,' Gleason said. 'I don't want the children to see me crying.'

Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589, aparas@postandcourier.com or at twitter.com/andyparas.