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Arizona woman, 2 sons dead in crash north of Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- An Arizona mother and two children who were driving home from a Reno-area rabbit show were among four people who died Sunday night in a fiery wrong-way crash north of Las Vegas, authorities said Wednesday.

The Nye County sheriff's office and Nevada Highway Patrol identified the victims as Justin Howell, 9, Jesse Howell, 13, and their 33-year-old mother, Joy Howell, all of Golden Valley, Ariz. The man driving the vehicle that hit them was also killed but hasn't been publicly identified.

The Howells had been riding in their Toyota van along U.S. 95 when a Buick sedan hit them about 10 miles outside the community of Amargosa Valley. Both vehicles went up in flames.

Extensive fire damage has complicated authorities' efforts to identify the man, said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jeremie Elliott.

Members of the Kingman Christian Church held a prayer service Monday for Tony Howell, the boys' father and the woman's husband, who wasn't with them at the time of the crash. A bank account for the family and other fundraisers have been launched, and a memorial service is planned for Sunday.

Joy Howell was a homeschooling mother and animal lover who owed a horse, pig and lizards, according to the family's pastor, Brian Van Dyke. She and her husband were active in the congregation.

``Their life really revolves around their faith and their church,'' Van Dyke said.

Gerald Olson, who works with the 4-H Club through the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, told the Kingman Daily Miner that the boys were active in 4-H rabbit projects.

Van Dyke said Tony Howell had last heard from his family a few hours before the crash and started contacting law enforcement when they didn't arrive home around midnight. He heard about the wreck Monday morning.

Amid the destruction at the crash scene, which included burned animal cages, rescuers found a lone surviving rabbit that had been ejected from the van. The animal's gray fur was singed and she has an injured leg but is otherwise healthy, firefighters said.

A firefighter has taken the rabbit home to care for her and has named her Lucky, said Seth Edmondson, a volunteer with the Amargosa Valley Fire Department.

The rabbit is pregnant, and Edmondson expects her to give birth soon.

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