Man, 24, killed in hit-and-run on Seabreeze Bridge, police say

Man riding motorized bicycle identified by police as Justin Gary

By Brianna Volz - Web producer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A man who was riding a motorized bicycle is dead after being struck in a hit-and-run involving a pickup Saturday morning on the Seabreeze Bridge, the Daytona Beach Police Department said.

Police officers went to the westbound span of the Seabreeze Bridge, where they learned that a truck had hit the man, who was identified by police as Justin Gary, 24.

Gary was heading west on the bridge's shoulder. Police said the driver of a large silver or gray Dodge pickup also was heading west on the bridge. 

Witnesses told police that the truck driver struck Gary, heavily damaging the bicycle. Police said witnesses also stated that Gary was dragged by the truck, then was thrown from it.

Gary landed about 50 feet away from his bicycle, police said.

Three witnesses told investigators that the driver of the pickup could not maintain a lane, police said. The witnesses also mentioned speed as a factor.

Police said Gary was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead later in the morning.

Sunday, police identified the driver of the pickup truck as Christopher Alan Whealen, 27. Police said that charges against Whealan are pending as the investigation continues, but he is not in custody.

A friend told News 6 that Gary was on his way home from Daytona Taproom, one of three places he was employed, when he was hit.

Gary's personality was uplifting to his friends, family and co-workers, Lee Buckner said.

"He always had a smile on his face. If you were in a bad mood around Justin, you weren't in a bad mood for very long. He wouldn't have anything of it," Buckner said.

Buckner said those who loved him are struggling with his sudden loss as they have been left to pick up the pieces.

"They're obviously grieving right now," Buckner said. "They're having to plan a funeral for their 24-year-old son -- something no parent should ever have to do."

He said all who are hurting are clinging to their faith and each other during the difficult time.

Gary's family is pleading for anyone with information about the crash to come forward.

"Just do the right thing. If you know something, call the Daytona Beach Police Department," his stepmother said. "If you're the person that did this, call the Daytona Beach Police Department. We'll get this squared out, straightened out."

Gary's general manager remembered him Sunday as someone who people, especially customers, found impossible to dislike.

"He'd start talking to the customers and it was like they started laughing and they'd come back just for him," Joshua Goerke said.

Flowers, notes and other items had been left outside the restaurant in remembrance of him.

Gary's boss is planning a memorial service and has been collecting donations for his family. The date for the service has not been determined.

Anyone who would like to donate to Gary's family can send money to the Tomoka Christian Church in Ormond Beach, where  his funeral will be held later this week, Buckner said. The funeral will be a private event for family and close friends.

A public memorial for Gary will be held Friday at Daytona Taproom at 310 Seabreeze Blvd. starting at 7:30 p.m.

Anyone with information about the crash may text "CRIMES" (274637), or log on to dbpd.us and click on Anonymous Web Tips. Police said when using a cellphone, all messages should begin with "DBTIPS." Tipsters remain anonymous.

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