Family and friends in two local communities are grieving after the deaths of two National Guardsmen who were killed late Sunday when they were hit after stopping and assisting a motorist on Interstate 10 in Jefferson County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The accident happened just after 7 p.m. Major Gen. Emmett Titshaw said a convoy of two National Guard vehicles were traveling to a training facility when one of the vehicles blew a tire, leaving debris in the road. The convoy pulled over to the right of the road, and a car traveling behind the convoy was struck by debris and pulled into a grassy median.
Two guardsmen jumped out of the convoy to check on the safety of the second vehicle when a third, oncoming vehicle swerved to avoid debris in the road, striking and killing Capt. Tecari Czarnecki, of St. Augustine, and Staff Sgt. David Stone, of Starke.
Czarnecki and Stone (pictured, right) were transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where they died of their injuries.
Channel 4 spoke with the family and friends of Staff Stone Monday night. His brother told us that he’s still in shock.
“Just in shock, grieving. Trying to keep our heads up, but it’s difficult,” said Cody Hughes.
Hughes told us that his brother Stone was expected to be in his wedding in a few weeks.
“He was to be the best man in my wedding, I was the best man in his, greatest guy I’ve ever known. Brighten any room, just an all around awesome person,” said Hughes.
"The feeling of loss of our teammates is substantial," Titshaw said. "It's not like these two were deployed in a combat zone where you expect to have some losses, but they were in route to a training exercise to be better guardsmen, airmen at their jobs, and this tragedy occurred. It's just, tears your heart. When you wear the uniform of your nation, you're prepared for that, but when coming in on an accident, it just makes it harder."
Stone grew up in Bradford County. His family told Channel 4 Monday that he leaves behind a wife and three-year-old son.
“He stepped out to do what anyone around here would do, try to make a bad situation better. Someone not paying attention struck him. Took a good guy,” said Stone’s friend, Matthew Moore.
The driver of the vehicle that struck the them, 22-year-old Shiv Patel, sustained minor injuries. According to the FHP report, she was driving about 70 mph when she attempted to stop. Charges are pending.
The two victims were part of the 44th Civil Support Team based at Camp Blanding.
"They're even closer because they were full-timers supporting our 44th civil support team," Titshaw said. "That's a close-knit group of 22 people that do some great work for us day to day."