Two children with heavy ties to Monroe County have died following a crash in Northern Georgia over the weekend.

WRCBtv (Channel 3) out of Chattanooga reported that Christopher “Butch” Rowles, 51, was traveling on Highway 136 in Walker County, Ga., when he lost control of the van he was driving, left the roadway and traveled on the shoulder for about 300 feet before hitting a tree. Rowles and a passenger, Blake Hunt, 5, were killed in the accident. Neither of them were wearing seat belts, according to troopers. The Georgia State Patrol said state law requires children under the age of 8 to use a booster or child seat.

Brandon Hunt, 10, had to be cut out of the vehicle and was taken to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, where he later died on Monday from injuries in the crash. GSP said Brandon was sitting in the front passenger seat and was wearing his seat belt.

According to the crash report, troopers found a cooler with beer and open containers on the floor of the van. A blood test will determine if alcohol played a role in the fatal accident.

The children’s mother, Melissa Howard, is originally from the Tellico Plains area. The boys’ father, Andy Hunt, still lives in Monroe County and is a longtime Tellico Plains volunteer firefighter. Rowles’ was Melissa’s fiance.

According to published reports, Rowles and the two boys left to go to the store on Saturday and never made it back home. Brandon and Blake had an older brother and two sisters.

Funeral arrangements for the two children are being handled by Biereley-Hale Funeral Home in Madisonville.

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