ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – Family and friends are remembering a husband, wife and the couple’s 4-year-old son who died in a wrong-way crash late Saturday evening in Alachua County.
They described the Heslings as a sweet, loving family.
The 6-month-old daughter of Christopher Hesling, 30, and Brittany Hesling, 31, was the only survivor.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the driver of a Hyundai Elantra was heading the wrong way on State Road 24/Waldo Road, just outside Gainesville, about 11:40 p.m. Saturday when the Hyundai collided head-on with the family’s Toyota Rav4. Troopers said the driver of the Hyundai also died.
Christopher and Brittany Hesling were high school sweethearts. They were crowned Effingham County High School’s prom king and queen. News4Jax spoke by phone on Monday with classmate Tayana Andrews, who graduated with the pair in 2007.
“Where do I begin? Chris and Brittany were both loving people. They were very friendly, outgoing and both very, very goofy," Andrews said.
An online wedding announcement said Christopher, who went to Georgia Southern University and the University of Tennessee, and Brittany, who attended Armstrong Atlantic State University, married in 2012.
The couple most recently lived in a neighborhood near downtown St. Marys with their two children.
Andrews said the pair were always bubbly and outgoing, and the tragedy has shaken the Effingham County community.
“This took a big toll on a lot of people, especially those who were, had personal relationships with them," she said. “We’re just hoping that, you know, we can all take this one day at a time."
A representative with Naval Station Mayport said Christopher Hesling worked in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department on the base. The base on Monday released the following statement:
“We are devastated by this and our hearts and prayers are with the families that are coping with this tragic loss.”
Alice Hurley, a neighbor in St. Marys, told News4Jax on Sunday that she previously worked with Christopher Hesling at MWR on Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
“They were just a couple doors down from us," she said. “I would see him walking down the street with his little son.”
James Jackson, a former Georgia police officer, was traveling down Waldo Road on Saturday night when he said he called 911 to report the Hyundai traveling the wrong way, but said it was too late. He said he and two other men helped pull Jack Hesling, 4, and 6-month-old Maggie Hesling to safety.
“My focus was on the children and we were able to break the window out from the side where the child was sitting behind the driver," Jackson told News4Jax on Monday.
Jackson said the boy was breathing, but unresponsive. Troopers said Jack Hesling suffered critical injuries and Maggie Hesling had minor injuries. Both children were taken to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, where troopers said the boy later died.
The baby is recovering and was expected to be released Monday from the hospital.