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Woman killed in crash 'died saving her daughter,' family says

McKenzie Remus, 20, died Saturday in a two-car collision near near Perth, Ont., leaving behind her grieving fiancé and their 10-month-old daughter.

McKenzie Remus killed Saturday in 2-car collision near Perth, Ont.

Caleb Rogers, right, looks on as Kelly Remus-Dubois plays with 10-month-old Everlee. Rogers was behind the wheel Saturday when his fiancée, McKenzie Remus — Everlee's mother and Remus-Dubois's daughter — died in a car crash near Perth, Ont. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Caleb Rogers has been replaying the crash on Macphails Road over and over in his head, trying in vain to change the tragic outcome.

He was behind the wheel Saturday when his northbound vehicle slammed into an oncoming car near Tennyson Road, northeast of Perth, Ont. 

His fiancée, 20-year-old McKenzie Remus, pregnant with the couple's second child, died in the crash. Their 10-month-old daughter, Everlee, strapped into her car seat in the back, was unharmed.

McKenzie Remus's mother says she died in a crash on Highway 7 because she was leaning over to protect her daughter. 0:38

Rogers escaped physical injury, too, but said he's still numb. Now he's a single father.

"I'm going to try to stay strong for [Everlee]," he said. "That's the hardest part." 

McKenzie Remus was pregnant with the couple's second child when she died. (Pilon Family Funeral home)

Daughter 'was just her life'

Remus's mother, Kelly Remus-Dubois, said the pathologist found her daughter had suffered a broken neck, likely because of the angle she was sitting at the moment of impact.

"She was leaning over to protect Everlee," Remus-Dubois said. "So she died saving her daughter, and that's something she would do."

Everlee shares a cuddle with her grandmother, Kelly Remus-Dubois. (Amanda Pfeffer)

During an interview in Remus-Dubois's backyard, Everlee seemed well, blowing kisses and cooing with her dad and grandmother.

"Caleb's the lucky one," said Remus-Dubois, handing the baby over to Rogers. "He gets to look at that face every day and remember her mom."

"She meant everything to me," Rogers said.

Donations pour in

"She was an amazing mom," said family friend Stacy Mullins-Campbell. "Her little girl was just her life."

Mullins-Campbell, who went to school with Remus-Dubois, has set up an online fundraiser to help the family with funeral costs and Everlee's care. Donations reached the $10,000 goal in just 24 hours. 

"The response has made my heart swell," Mullins-Campbell said. 

'Her little girl was just her life,' said family friend Stacy Mullins-Campbell, who started an online fundraising campaign. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

"It brought tears to my eyes, knowing everyone's there for us," Rogers said.

Rogers and his daughter will move back in with his parents for the time being. It would be too painful to return to the home the young family had just moved into on Aug. 1, he said.

Remus-Dubois said she's hoping her daughter's gravesite will become a place where Rogers can take Everlee as the little girl grows up.

Remus's funeral will take place in St. John Chrysostom Church in Arnprior, Ont., on Friday at 11 a.m.