A traffic accident in Florida claimed the life of a Williamsburg businessman and his two young children early Monday morning.
Wesley Chapman, 28, and his two children, Auston, 7, and Isabelle, 4, died instantly in the three-vehicle crash near Barberville, which happened about 5:11 a.m.
“Wesley was an outgoing, loving devoted father. He always had his kids and his wife with him,” said Conley Manning, Chapman’s uncle. “He had a lot of aspirations and a lot of dreams. He fought his way through a lot of adversity in his life to become successful. It looked like he had everything going for him.”
Chapman’s wife, Julie McCullah Chapman, 27, suffered severe injuries in the crash, and was transported to Halifax Regional Medical Center where doctors operated on her leg Monday afternoon.
Manning said she was in critical condition Monday afternoon, but is expected to recover physically from the accident.
Chapman had worked at Buhl’s Chevron Service Station for several years, and had taken over operation of the station a few years ago from his grandfather, Disel Buhl, who started the business 50 years ago.
Chapman and his family had gone down to Buhl’s vacation home in Florida for a short vacation shortly after Christmas, and were on their way home when the accident occurred.
Sgt. Rick Ritter with the Florida Highway Patrol said Chapman’s SUV was heading east on State Road 40 toward I-75 when the accident happened near County Road 3.
The driver of a pick-up truck, Aaron B. Miles, 18, of the Lake Como area, ran a stop sign on County Road 3 and struck Chapman’s vehicle in the passenger’s side. The impact caused Chapman’s SUV to spin clockwise and into the eastbound lane of State Road 40 where it was struck by a semi truck driven by James Roy Vaughn, 58, of Springfield, Missouri, Ritter said.
The semi, which was pulling a boat trailer, hit Chapman’s vehicle in the rear driver’s side, and struck the pick-up truck as well. Once the semi made contact with the pick-up, it pushed the vehicle for several feet before it came to rest against a power pole knocking out electricity to 400 homes for about seven hours.
Wesley Chapman and Auston Chapman were both wearing seatbelts. Isabelle Chapman was in a child restraint seat in the rear of the vehicle.
Despite being restrained, all three were ejected from the vehicle, sustained fatal injuries, and died immediately.
Miles, the pick-up truck driver, also died instantly in the accident.
The driver of the semi, Vaughn, complained about feeling injured, but wasn’t transported to a hospital, Ritter said.
The area was apparently very foggy at the time of the accident.
Ritter said a toxicology test will be done on Miles body to determine if drugs or alcohol were a factor.
“There was no fault on behalf of the Chapman vehicle,” he added.
Two teenagers riding in the back of the pick-up truck were vaulted from the vehicle and thrown about 50 feet. They were taken to a local hospital, and one was released Monday afternoon.
Karen West, Wesley Chapman’s first cousin, said Wesley had hung out at the station with his grandfather since he was a young kid, and even helped out pumping gas as a youngster. He started working at the station part-time while in high school, and as soon as he graduated began working full-time. He took over management of the station five years ago.
West said Chapman loved the people aspect of the business.
“He loved it so much. He took a lot of pride in keeping it up and doing things the right way,” West noted. “He was a nice person. He was kind, and he did a lot for others.”
Auston Chapman attended Whitley Central Primary School, and was in the first grade. His sister, Isabella, was a preschool student there.
“They had lots of friends and were loved by students and teachers alike. It was a huge loss. They were rays of sunshine when they were here,” said Whitley Central Primary Principal Lee Hensley.
Hensley said seven grief counselors were sent to the school to help students and staff as needed, and that they stayed busy for most of the day. She said the counselors will be called back Wednesday if needed.
Croley Funeral Home is in charge of funeral arrangements, which have not been completed yet.
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