Man dies of injuries from 1st of 2 crashes at Mayport's main gate this month

In both incidents, active barrier deployed to block unauthorized vehicles

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

MAYPORT, Fla. - A man who was critically injured when he tried to crash the main gate of Naval Station Mayport last week has died. That incident occurred eight days before a man crashed a stolen dump truck into the gate on Tuesday.

Navy personnel said proper procedures were used and the intruding vehicles were stopped in both cases.

The first incident happened on June 3. The driver, who police have not identified, stopped at the gate, but when he did now show any credentials to the guards, he was told to turn his car around and leave. Instead, he showed the guard a can of beer, gunned his engine and drove on. Security staff activated a pop-up barrier, which the man crashed into.

The man was taken to a hospital, where he died two days later.

Navy authorities said they couldn't comment on the incident, but there was no reason to believe that incident was related to Tuesday's crash into the same gate.

A former Alabama basketball player crashed a Ford F-350 dump truck stolen from a Palm Coast landscaping business into the barrier Tuesday morning. The driver, identified as Rodney Smith, was not injured. He was taken into custody by Jacksonville police. A gun and mask were found in the truck, but it wasn't clear if they belonged to him.

Smith had to be removed from court Wednesday during his first appearance before a Duval County judge because he made an obscene gesture. He also laughed and smiled at television cameras.

Smith also faces charges of burglary and car theft charges in Flagler County.

Risa Grant, who passes through the gate every day, said security at the gate is a bit bothersome but, "It's worth it. I feel it protect me and protects our nation.”

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