‘The world was at his feet:’ Winter Garden school honors soldier killed in training accident

2nd Lt. Evan Fitzgibbon died during a training exercise

A Winter Garden high school is remembering one of its graduates after he was killed in an Army training exercise earlier this week.

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – A Winter Garden high school is remembering one of its graduates after he was killed in an Army training exercise earlier this week.

U.S. Army Fort Benning said 2nd Lt. Evan Fitzgibbon died during a training exercise in Dahlonega, Georgia, on Tuesday after being struck by a falling tree at Yonah Mountain.

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Staff Sgt. George Taber also died in the incident, and three others were injured.

“As a teacher, one of the worst things you can hear is that a student passed, especially someone like Evan who… the world was at his feet,” said Linda Schefstad.

Schefstad taught Fitzgibbon from sophomore year until his senior year at Foundation Academy located in Winter Garden.

The school has lowered its flags to half-staff to honor Fitzgibbon.

Scheftstad showed us Fitzgibbon’s senior yearbook. He won Best Smile, was on the homecoming court, was an honor student, and an athlete participating on the football team.

“He is the type of student we hope our current student would aim to be,” said Schefstad.

After graduation from Foundation Academy, Fitzgibbon attended West Point and was engaged to his high school sweetheart.

The military academy sending out this statement:

“2nd Lt. Fitzgibbon was an incredible leader of character who exemplified Army values and the West Point ideals of Duty, Honor, and Country. The entire West Point Community and the Long Gray Line share in this loss and are keeping the Fitzgibbon and Taber families in our thoughts and prayers.”

“As a military person in general, you sign up knowing there is a risk of the possibility of endangering your life,” said James Campbell, who taught Fitzgibbon but is also a former commander in the Navy.

He tells News 6 deadly training accidents are rare. An Army spokesperson said an investigation will be taking place.

Campbell says while this time is hard for everyone, their faith provides comfort.

“Our foundational belief is that Evan is not gone,” said Campbell, “You know he’s still in heaven, he’s probably thinking, you need to chill don’t worry about this... I am now serving the lord for eternity.”

The Foundation Academy will be holding a candlelit vigil Tuesday, August 17, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. at Tilden’s Campus Lion Field.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.