CHIPLEY, Fla. – A man faces several charges including DUI manslaughter after the Florida Highway Patrol says his pickup truck fatally struck three utility workers as they were repairing lines damaged by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.
All three men -- George Cecil, 52, of Cole Rain, North Carolina; Ryan Barrett, 22, of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; and James Ussery of Chipley, Florida -- died from their injuries, according to a highway patrol news release.
The Wednesday evening crash occurred on State Road 77 near Chipley, which is north of Panama City. The pickup truck driven by John Goedtke, 37, of the Tampa area, was heading north when it veered onto the road's shoulder, striking the workers, Sgt. R.C. Livingston wrote in the incident report.
“He didn't just swerve off the road. He completely left the road," Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews said.
Goedtke fled the scene after the crash, but was later tracked down about 5 miles later and detained by the Washington County Sheriff's Office. He was later arrested by troopers.
Ussery worked for West Florida Electric. Cecil and Barrett were both working for Lee Electric Construction Inc.
Goedtke, who received minor injuries in the crash, was charged with DUI manslaughter, felony vehicular homicide and leaving the scene. Troopers said additional charges are pending.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Goedtke told police he had come north from Tampa to help storm victims, but his long criminal record spanning 18 years and 27 arrests makes police suspect he was actually there to prey on them.
Goedtke has been charged with at least three crimes including DUI manslaughter, felony vehicular homicide and felony leaving the scene. More charges may be on the horizon.
“A storm of this magnitude, it certainly brings the good people out," Crews said. "But not only does it bring the good people out, it brings the bad people out and this guy right here, he's a bad one."
Thousands of linemen continue working to restore power throughout the panhandle.
“We continue to ask people to slow down," Crews said.
The tragedy has sent shockwaves through the community, a community already mourning losses from Hurricane Michael, now left to mourn the lives lost of those who came to make life easier.