Editor's note: This story has been updated. The Florida Highway Patrol sent out corrected information on Dec. 7. 2020.
ENGLEWOOD — Jeff Jones is trying to function in a world that has crumbled in the last two days.
His fiancée and mother of his two young children, Cortney Nicole Kauffman, died in a head-on collision on River Road early Sunday morning.
Still in shock, Jones had to tell his boys Brayden Michael Steven, 6, and Gauge, 3, their mommy is in heaven watching over them.
“They picked her flowers and looked up to the sky and said we picked flowers for you and we love you,” Jones said Monday. “It about killed me, but made me happy at the same time. I just don’t know what I’m going to do. All of a sudden, I’m a single father.”
Kauffman, 28, a certified nursing assistant, was headed to work from her Gulf Cove home at 5:20 a.m. Sunday. She was driving north on River Road.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a 27-year-old North Port woman was headed south on River Road in a Honda Accord. The southbound car “drifted into the southbound lanes of River” and the two cars collided near Center Road. (See editor's note above.)
The woman in the Honda was seriously injured. Neither driver was named in the report.
There was no cause to the crash given in the report. “The Florida Highway Patrol’s Traffic Homicide Unit continues to investigate the scene. Criminal charges are pending the completion of the crash investigation,” troopers reported.
Jones said Cortney was pregnant when she died.
“We hoped it was a girl,” said Jones, 38. “We had two boys and I have two kids from a previous relationship. We wanted a little girl. Cortney lost a baby at 28 weeks and another at 30 weeks, so this time we were waiting to make sure everything was OK before we got our hopes up. She was doing fine this time.”
Jones said the couple shared the car and still owed $12,000 on it. He’s now left with a 1994 Jeep with 260,000 miles with no air conditioning, bald tires and a tendency to overheat.
“It’s unsafe for me to drive my children, but I don’t have an option right now,” he said. “We have gap insurance on the new car. So I have a feeling the car will be paid off, but I will have zero for another car.”
Jones said he now has to do things he’s never had to do. The bills are in Kauffman’s name. The Social Security they receive for their son’s disability goes to Kauffman’s bank.
“I spent five hours on the phone on hold with Social Security only to be told I have to fill out paperwork in person, but none of the local offices are open,” he said. “It’s a nightmare at the moment. Cortney stayed home with the kids Monday through Thursday and worked Friday through the weekend as a CNA. I am off while she works. It allowed us to work full-time but still be with the kids.
“Brayden goes to Myakka Elementary School,” Jones said. “I don’t know how to get him to school and then get to work on time. He gets out of school before I get off of work. I don’t know what to do. I can’t work now. I was working my way up to a foreman for the painting company where I work.”
Jones said he knows his children wanted Power Wheels ATVs for Christmas and STEM science kits, but they couldn’t afford them. Instead the couple bought some little things for the kids. Kauffman also signed them up for a local giving tree, but Jones has no idea who planned to help the family for Christmas.
“I just don’t know everything,” he said. “I know we have enough to pay for our rent for the month. She handled everything for the boys. She paid the bills. It’s all too much right now. I will be talking to Cortney’s family. I’ve just been dealing with everything else at once.”
Jones said the couple met years ago and dated for about 10 years. They added Jones’ dad’s name to their son’s name after Steven Jones died in a 2005 Venice plane crash. He owned Sunstate Auto Repair for decades.
“She really was my world,” he said. “She had such a fun smile. She had a really big heart and would help anybody.”
Kauffman is also survived by her mom Carrie Robinson, dad Joe Kauffman, and sisters Megan and Morgan Kauffman.
The family set up a Gofundme account (www.gofundme.com/f/costs-or-arrangements-amp-for-cortneys-boys) for memorial arrangements and costs for the boys, rent, daycare, food and other expenses.
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