JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of a 21-year-old driver who died early Wednesday morning when state troopers said he turned left at the intersection of Beach and Kernan boulevards and his car was struck by an oncoming car said he was just starting to live his life after doing a tour in the National Guard.
According to the crash report, Tyler Mapel, of Jacksonville, was driving west on Beach about 12:45 a.m. when he tried to make a left-hand turn onto Kernan Boulevard in his Kia Rio. Troopers said the driver of a Ford Mustang heading east ran the red light and hit Mapel's car head-on.
Both Mapel and the driver of the Mustang, 26-year-old Christian Summers, of Jacksonville, were taken to UF Health Jacksonville. Mapel, a member of the Florida Army National Guard, died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Summers was reported to be in serious condition.
Mapel worked for Domino's pizza and was making a delivery when he was killed. His mother, Cami Mapel said he just got that job and was driving the car he bought while he was in the guard.
"I loved him so much. He was just starting to have a life for himself, and that guy took it," she said. "He has a twin brother named Kendall, and his dad passed away in '09 from an aneurysm. And, now this. So it’s hard for me to deal with."
Cami Mapel, who flew from Pennsylvania when she got the news, was horrified to hear the FHP suspected the other driver may have been drinking.
"It upsets me bad, and I don’t even know if he knows that he killed my son," Cami Mapel said.
Co-workers at Domino's said Tyler Mapel was a friendly guy, a hard worker and a positive person.
The mother of Tyler Mapel's girlfriend, Amber Crawford, echoed those sentiments in a statement to News4Jax:
"Tyler was the love of her life and they had planned to get married. He was a truly kind soul. He cared deeply for others and always went out of his way to help someone in need. He loved his country and was proud to serve in the Guard. His loss will be felt profoundly by all who had the privilege of knowing and loving him. Our hearts are broken that he has been taken from us."
Two passengers in Summers' car -- Elizabeth Thigpen, 20, and Ryan Delaholz, 21 -- were both taken to Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said troopers will look at the red-light cameras installed at the intersection to try to determine what happened.
"They want to find out the speed of the driver. They may have some video cameras to show when he ran the light. Was it long after the light turned red? Was it during the yellow? Probably not," Smith said.
Residents who live nearby, like Pat McQuaig, said drivers need to slow down, pay attention and realize that driving a car can be very dangerous.
"I'm not sure there's an answer. I think it just goes back to general irresponsibility, and, 'I'm in a hurry and I count. And the heck with the rest of you.' I think that's what it is," McQuaig said.
According to the FHP report, charges are pending in the crash.
Summers had several previous citations for speeding and failing to obey traffic signs or devices. His license was suspended in 2009, but was valid as of Wednesday.
Troopers did a toxicology test and said they believe drugs and alcohol might have played a part in Wednesday's crash, as well as speed.
Smith said they'll also look at road conditions.
"But quite often it is someone that just doesn't want to wait for that light, sit there awhile while the light is red," Smith said. "They just try to get through very quickly."
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer issued 208 violations for red-light runners last month alone. In the past six months, JSO has caught 1,108 violators.
Summers had one previous arrest from an incident where he pointed a gun at his sister. The charges were dropped.