MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – The Florida Highway Patrol is asking the public for help finding a vehicle that struck and killed a man in a wheelchair a week ago on North Mimosa Avenue in Middleburg last week, then drove away.
Troopers say the incident occurred about 10 p.m. on Oct. 20 on Mimosa near the intersection of Sesame Street. Christopher Strickland, 32, was in his manual wheelchair heading north on Mimosa to a gas station when he was struck.
The person who hit Strickland didn't stop. Strickland died from his injuries on Friday.
Friends remember Strickland was a great guy with a good attitude despite being paralyzed for the last 12 years after he was hit by a car.
"There's this one picture on Facebook where he's got a handicapped symbol on his shirt that says 'I'm in it just for the parking.' There was just something about him," said Chuck Fore.
Fore said he's still reeling from the shock of learning that that his friend was killed.
"I didn't think something like that would hit me that close to home," Fore said. "It's bad for anybody, but until you actually experience it... it's kind of different you know."
"He was conscious and all he could say was, 'I'm sorry mom, I'm sorry mom,'" said Strickland's sister, Amber Hester. "We told him there was nothing to be sorry about."
Hester is begging the driver who hit and killed her brother to come forward. She said she doesn't know how much pain and tragedy her family can take. Her brother was first hit by a car 12 years ago that accident left Strickland paralyzed.
"If it was an accident, all you have to do is stop and say I didn't mean to, I'm sorry, and call 911 and get help. Not just leave him there like he was nothing. Like his life meant nothing," said Hester.
Now, to have another driver hit him, and this time leave him for dead, is something that Hester said she's having a hard time dealing with.
"That bar that you pick up the wheelchair from, in the back, was basically u-shaped in the opposite direction of the way it was supposed to be. His cushion that he sits on to prevent him from getting bed sores was popped. It was in 15 different pieces," said Hester.
Strickland's family is making signs and posters with his picture on them. They hope this will prompt someone with information as to who hit Christopher.
"If it was an accident, why didn't you stop? Why didn't you see that he was okay, or call an ambulance or do something? How could you just leave him on the side of the road with no help? In pain with broken arms and broken legs. He was already paralyzed," said Hester.
The FHP does not have any information about they type of vehicle, but it should have damage to the front or left-front portion.
Strickland will be laid to rest this weekend. His family then plans to visit the site where he died.
Anyone with any information about the case is asked to call the Florida Highway Dispatch Center at 904-359-6572 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS (8477).