Hundreds of people lined Lancashire Avenue on Monday evening clutching signs and flowers and candles as they waited for the procession carrying four deceased Louisvillians to pass through.
Louisville firefighter Lesley Prather, 40, and her daughter, Rhyan, along with Carrie McCaw, 44, and her daughter, Kacey, were on their way to a volleyball tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, when they all died in a crash on Valentine’s Day. Both of the daughters were 12.
Since then, the community has mourned their loss, from fire fighters to local volleyball leagues. Monday was the culmination of all that grief as the bodies of the four came back home.
Firefighters draped flags over bypasses, and children came out in their favorite KIVA jerseys. The air smelled of candle wax and roses.
In a joint statement released before the procession, Major Bobby Cooper with Louisville Fire and Brian O’Neill, the president of the IAFF Local 345 chapter, expressed gratitude to St. Louis and the first responders who handled the crash that killed their fellow first responder.
“Our brothers and sisters with St. Louis Fire stood watch over Carrie, Kacey, Lesley and Rhyan until we were able to relieve them over the weekend,” the joint statement read. “We are so grateful for their understanding care.”
At the scene of the procession, Rick Laemmle, the athletic director at St. Raphael, said the loss is “heartbreaking.”
He said McCaw had “a knack to make people feel special” and impacted so many lives in the community, while her daughter Kacey had a “passion and competitiveness and fire” in her.
McCaw “positively impacted so many people,” said Laemmle. “Carrie meant a lot to a lot of people because she cared about people. She was this genuine, hardworking, passionate and energetic person.”
“Carrie will live through all these people,” he added, gesturing at the huge crowd that was packed along the road. “The gifts she passed on are just phenomenal. They’ll live on for a long time even in the young kids that she touched.”
Children held signs that said, “fly high,” “City Girl,” and “KIVA Strong,” and the cars that passed laid on the horn until they were out of sight.
As the cars passed by the ambulance, with first responders holding an American flag and rows of young athletes in green and yellow standing their own watch, hundreds of balloons were released into the air.
And when the last car in the procession had passed, most people dispersed, there were pockets of crying people left clinging to each other.