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Bride Dies in Motorcycle Crash on Way to Reception Minutes After Marrying New Husband


An Illinois bride died just minutes after saying "I do" to the love of her life when the motorcycle she and her groom were riding to their reception crashed, family said.

Jana Miles-Burnett exchanged vows with William Burnett, 31, in a city park in Buckner, Illinois about 6:30 p.m. Saturday. 

The couple had met through friends and decided to wed after a whirl-wind romance, family told INSIDE EDITION. 

"After two months, they knew they wanted to be together," the woman's daughter, Sarah Smillie, said. 

"There wasn't a time that I had seen her happier. If they were together, she was smiling," Smillie, 22, told IE. 

The wedding ceremony reflected their relationship and was light and full of love, she said.

"I’ve never been to a wedding where there was so much laughter. They were stumbling over each other's words because they were nervous, but they were laughing," Smillie said. "It was the most relaxed and funny thing I've ever seen at a wedding."

After being pronounced husband and wife, the couple hopped on Burnett's motorcycle and waved on family to start a procession to the reception, Smillie's husband, Khole Smillie said. 

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"They went to do the procession and they wanted them (Miles-Burnett and Burnett) to go first, but Jana waved everyone on because she wanted to be the last one," Khole Smillie said. "They all got to the reception and they saw ambulances and firetrucks going back."

It was during the procession that a deer ran onto the road and into the newlyweds' lane, causing a crash that threw Miles-Burnett, 40, to the ground. 

"There were three or four motorcycles together and William tried to swerve and did everything he could. It (the deer) had turned around and darted right at the bike. There's some things you cannot control," Khole Smillie said. "Deer were going crazy that night. It's mating season and it's a rural road. Coming back, we saw 30 deer in a 20-minute ride running across the road." 

Still wearing her wedding gown, Miles-Burnett was rushed to the hospital but could not be saved and was pronounced dead an hour later.

"At least she didn't suffer. Everybody else just suffers the pain now," Khole Smillie said.

Her new husband suffered minor injuries in the crash. 

"We've seen each other every day since then," Smillie said of her mother's husband, who in less than a day of being married, became a widower. "He's holding up. He's like me. Every hour or so he breaks down."

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The family is working to stay strong for Miles-Burnett's 14-year-old son, Cody Miles, they said.

"She did everything she had to to make sure me and and my brother were taken care of," Smillie said. "My brother's not doing good. He's taking it hard. But it's been amazing how many people truly cared about her and are reaching out to help us at this time. It's amazing."

In just one day, people have donated nearly $1,500 to a GoFundMe page created by Khole Smillie to offset memorial and funeral costs. 

"Jana was my mother-in-law, a true inspiration, and a loving soul," he wrote. "She accepted me into her family with open arms and constant giggling and laughter. In my two years of being a part of their family, not once did I witness Jana in a bad mood!"

Miles-Burnett worked as a 911 dispatcher for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, where she served as a surrogate mother to those she guided, her son-in-law said. 

"She looked over local officers and she looked over me and she definitely helped me and Sarah along," he said. "And she just cared about her two kids and her family."

"I've never met anyone like her," Khole Smilie continued. "The world could be coming to an end and she would just laugh and giggle and say 'Well how much time do we got left?'"

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