‘I know I am making him proud:’ Man works on tribute car honoring brother who died in Casselberry crash

Jacob Howard, 18, died in June

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – The brother of a victim in a fatal car crash said he is finishing a project in hopes of honoring his loved one’s memory.

Austin Howard said he is in the process of restoring a 1988 Honda Accord. The car belonged to his brother, 18-year-old Jacob Howard. Jacob, or as people called him “Kat,” died in a car crash in June on State Route 436 and Wilshire in Casselberry.

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According to Austin, his brother Jacob had bought two Honda Accords — one he was restoring to drive and the other for parts — as he was working on his first project car. The car he was restoring was the one he was driving the day of the crash.

“He was saving up money and going to school to try and put everything into that car to make it his,” Austin said. “So that’s the main reason why I want to do this because I want to take all those ideas that he and I shared over the time we had working on that car together, and I want to make it come true on this for him.”

He said Jacob had just finished his first semester at University of Central Florida and was looking on studying mechanical engineering like Austin did. After Jacob died, Austin took over the project by restoring the car his brother was using for parts, but it has come with some challenges.

“It already had a blown motor when he got it, and it was just kind of in shambles,” he said. “And when he got it, he was just kind of being kind of rough with it because it was a parts car. Like, I got the transmission sitting in the back seat right now.”

The car had been originally lost to a salvage yard after Jacob’s accident. The insurance company shipped it off before the family had a chance to retrieve his items from inside it. Exactly three months later, Austin said he received a message from a Cocoa couple, Doug and CJ, who contacted him on social media saying they had found his late brother’s car.

Doug, a Honda guy, found the car in a junkyard in South Florida, Howard said. He recognized the car as Jacob’s because the 18-year-old had his Instagram handle printed as a sticker and mounted on the back corner glass of the car. Austin said the couple took the time to look up Jacob’s account and reached out to Austin about the car.

Once Doug and CJ realized Jacob had been killed in the car, Howard said they returned to the junkyard and pulled every salvageable part off the car and also retrieved Jacob’s personal items from within.

“Without a question,” Howard said. “The next message (they sent said) they were going to get everything off the car that you want.”

The couple also helped salvage a window from Jacob’s car that Austin said his family will frame to remember him. He said he is looking to finish the project by next spring. When he’s finally done with the car, Austin said it will be as if his brother had done it himself.

“I would tell him that he did it, that this was all because of him, that he finally made his dreams come true,” he said.

Austin initiated a GoFundMe campaign so individuals can help him on his journey on completing this project in memory of Jacob.

About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.