Soldier dies after military vehicle flips on US Highway 301 near NW 265th Street in Bradford County
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A local US Army Guardsman killed in a single-car accident in Starke, Florida was stationed in Gainesville and on his way to Guard headquarters in Jacksonville, according to Public Affairs officials with the Florida National Guard.
Specialist Arandall Shears of West Point, Georgia joined the Guard in 2011 and one of his close friends says the 20-year-old was looking forward to deployment next month.
"He was pretty excited about it because he was going to Qatar, so I know it was a big deal for him," said Brandon Thomas, Shears' neighbor and friend.
Florida Highway Patrol says Specialist Shears was attempting to change lanes on US Highway 301 near NW 265th Street when he lost control of the military Humvee he was driving. He was ejected from the vehicle. Brian Johns, Emergency Management Director for Bradford County, was driving back from Jacksonville on US Highway 301 and stopped to help when he saw the overturned vehicle.
"After about a minute he did lose his pulse and respiration, we began CPR on this soldier and when the ambulance got there they transported to Shands of Starke and was life-flighted to Shands in Gainesville," said Johns.
Shears died at Shands in Gainesville. Thomas was shocked by the news.
"I'm just so saddened about what happened, he's a great person. I just feel so empty right now because we had a great time while we were together as friends, but I didn't get to say what I wanted to say," said Thomas.
Thomas and Shears had taken road trips to Georgia together since they both have family there. Thomas says Shears was very dedicated to the Guard.
"He seemed pretty passionate about the Army, he would go to reserves sometimes and he just loved to have fun. He loved to live his life," said Thomas.
Thomas says Shears was a student at Sante Fe College last semester, but took this semester off for deployment.
"Normally, you think of our service men and women that get hurt on the battlegrounds or battlefield and for him to be in a serious vehicle accident at home, that's really sad," says Johns.
Just this last weekend Shears had a get-together with all his friends.
"A friend of mine told me he was throwing a party and he said it was his last party before deployment," said Thomas.
First Coast News