CARBONDALE — When Americus Bryant's older sister saw a picture on her mother's Facebook page of the 7-year-old standing in a washing machine, she laughed.

It was so like her sister, who loved to laugh and was such a social butterfly, but who was in the washing machine this day because she was helping her mother — who was having back pains — by pulling the laundry from the washer basket.

That smile is just one of the things that Americus' sister, Portia Dunn, will miss. Americus died Tuesday night from injuries she suffered in a traffic crash about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Ava.

“She was always smiling, always happy, loved to dance, loved to go shopping,” her sister said. “She was mom’s little couponing buddy. They would always clip out coupons and go shopping."

Americus was a second-grader at Thomas Elementary School in Carbondale; the school has reportedly made grief counseling available to the students and staff Thursday.

Dunn said a medical professional told her that injuries on Americus' body indicated she was wearing a seat-belt in the back seat of her mother's vehicle at the time of the crash. Bryant's vehicle collided head-on with another vehicle driven by an unnamed 17-year-old female, investigators have said.

She said doctors told her Americus died during surgery, from massive injuries to her liver.

Their mother, Bryant, who is aware that her youngest daughter died from injuries from the crash, is hospitalized in a St. Louis-area hospital recovering from her own injuries.

In addition to her mother and sister, Americus is survived by a 13-year-old brother, Nathinyal Bryant; her maternal grandparents, Clifford and Paula Keelin of Pinckneyville; a 4-year-old niece, Sidnee Bryant; and several pets.

Americus' funeral arrangements are pending with Wilson Funeral Home in Ava.

Her sister has organized a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funeral-related expenses for the family, which can be found at gofundme.com/americusmadalynn.

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Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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