COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – A Waste Pro employee was standing behind a work truck Tuesday morning when he was fatally struck by a car in Columbia County, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Troopers identified him as 34-year-old Julian Udell.
Family members told News4Jax on Wednesday that Udell had been working on and off for Waste Pro for more than a decade and truly died doing what he loved.
"He loved working on that garbage truck," said Eddie Allen, Udell's cousin.
Udell, known to most as Juju, was born and raised in White Springs and worked in Lake City.
Family and friends remembered him as a loving, all-around positive person.
"He just enjoyed everybody. He was not a bad person," Allen said. "He just loved Florida State football -- not just any football, the Florida State football."
Udell died on the job about 10:10 a.m. Tuesday when troopers said he was pinned between his garbage truck and a car on County Road 250/Lake Jeffery Road, south of Northwest Kimble Glen.
According to the Highway Patrol report, the driver of a Ford Taurus traveling southeast on C.R. 250 did not notice the garbage truck, which was stopped in the southbound lane of C.R. 250, and Udell, who was standing directly behind the truck.
A woman who witnessed the crash told News4Jax it was horrifying. Neighbors pointed out pieces of debris that were still scattered in the grass along C.R. 250 the day after it happened.
Udell’s cousin sent a message to drivers.
"These guys work hard and try to be as careful as they can on the back of these trucks, but if you guys are not paying attention, it can cost them their lives," Allen said. "It's one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. People don't believe it."
According the National Solid Waste Association of North America, 38 waste industry workers died on the job in 2017. Sixty percent of them died while collecting garbage.
Loved ones called Udell’s death a senseless tragedy.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ron Pecora, senior vice president of Waste Pro USA, issued the following statement:
The Waste Pro Family is saddened by the tragic and senseless death of Mr. Udell while on a residential garbage route. This is a devastating loss to our company and to his family members. He had been working off and on for Waste Pro since 2006. We urge motorists to pay attention to their surroundings and to slow down around our collection vehicles so that our team members get home safely."
According to the Highway Patrol report, the driver of the Taurus, a 38-year-old Lake City man, was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.
The Highway Patrol told News4Jax on Wednesday that charges are still pending and it will be conducting a full-scale homicide investigation of the incident, which will take about 60 to 90 days to conclude.