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Man on scooter killed in Buckman Bridge crash

29-year-old Somnang Vann leaves behind wife, 4-year-old daughter

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man killed just after midnight Friday in an accident on the Buckman Bridge leaves behind a wife and 4-year-old daughter.

The Florida Highway Patrol said 29-year-old Somnang Vann was traveling south in the right lane on Interstate 295 when a blue Toyota Corolla rear-ended his motor scooter. Stefani Johanna Mejia, 28, did not see the scooter in time and hit the back of it, and Vann was thrown from the scooter. He died at the scene.

Relatives said Vann was an air conditioning repair technician and was out late because of an emergency repair. He rode his scooter to the job, instead of his work truck, and was on his way back from the job when the crash happened, his family said.

"He really cares for his job and his family. And any time somebody needs help doing something, he is always there; he's always there to help out," said Sokhom Chea, Vann's uncle.

Another driver told News4Jax that he was also involved in a crash with Vann, just before the fatal wreck. He said he did not see Vann's scooter and hit the back of it on the I-295 offramp to Collins Road. He said Vann flew onto the hood of his car but got up. The two exchanged information and called 911, but Vann said he didn't need help, got back on his scooter and left before rescue arrived.

He was hit and killed on the bridge shortly after that.

State troopers are still investigating both crashes.

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FHP said troopers received the call about the bridge crash and responded to the scene around 1 a.m. All southbound lanes of Interstate 295 on the Buckman Bridge were shut down for nearly four hours.

An FHP spokesman said the minimum speed on the Buckman Bridge is 40 mph, and Vann's scooter was large enough to reach that speed.

Mejia was visibly upset after the crash and declined to comment. Mejia's lawyer released this statement on her behalf:

"Ms. Mejia wishes to express her condolences to the family of Somnang Vann. Her thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. Ms. Mejia will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as they investigate this heartbreaking accident."

Charges are pending in the bridge accident. 

"When cars approach the Buckman Bridge, speeds just tend to increase," News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said. "People seem to go a lot faster on that bridge. And this person is riding on a motor scooter with a maximum speed of maybe 40 to 50 miles an hour. So it is possible that he was traveling the minimum speed, but even at the minimum speed on the Buckman Bridge, it could be dangerous for a motorcyclist."

Vann's family is planning a memorial service at the Cambodian Temple but has yet to set a date.

Vann's uncle said the family is coming together to support Vann's wife and daughter.

"Anything she needs, we are going to take care of her. We are going to take care of them," Chea said. 

A GoFundMe account has been set up to collect donations for the family. To donate, go to http://www.gofundme.com/s7s3r3k.