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Four dead after Friday crash

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By Alice Du Pont

Four Gadsden County men died early Friday morning, Oct. 12, in a traffic accident on High Bridge Road near the city of Midway on State Road 267. Killed were: Terry Paden, 30, of Midway; Harry Lee Thomas, 20, of Midway; Antwon Donte Lawson, 19, of Midway; and Ivan Roque Villeda, 19,of Midway. Robert Dennard III, a passenger in the vehicle was injured but was listed in fair condition Oct. 15 at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. According to a report released by Florida Highway Patrol, the vehicle was traveling east when it veered onto the south shoulder of the road. It then traveled across two lanes to the north shoulder where it hit one tree, spun around and hit a second tree before ending up at the bottom of an embankment. No one in the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt, and three of the men were ejected. Three were pronounced dead at the scene and Paden was pronounced dead at TMH Friday morning. Florida Highway Patrol officer Gene Hunt, who lives a few hundred yards from the crash site was first on the scene. He said before he heard what sounded like a crash, his dogs were barking and he went outside to investigate and found the dogs were barking at a bear that was in one of the trees. Minutes later, he heard the screech of automobile tires and a loud noise. “All I can say is that the good Lord must have placed that bear in my yard,” Hunt said. He was a neighbor to the Lawson family. “I didn’t hear the crash, but I heard sirens passing. I told my husband, ‘That’s my baby, that my baby,’ and he said no it’s not but I could feel it, I knew it was him,” said Cesenia Wright-Lawson, Antwon Lawson’s mother. Wright-Lawson said Antwon had completed the courses he needed to become a barber on Oct. 11. The plan was for him to work with his father in his Midway barber shop and learn the business. The funeral service for Lawson will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at East Gadsden High School where he once played basketball. Ivan Villeda was Antwon’s best friend, according to his mother. “They have been friends since we were in the second grade at George Munroe. Everybody knew they were best friends, and they were just nice guys, that’s all, just nice guys,” said Sharika Bean, a classmate, following the funeral service for Villeda on Sunday evening. The sanctuary was filled with high-school classmates and church members. He was remembered as “strong mentally and physically” by his Sunday School teacher and as a “fun-loving, happy” person who cared dearly for his brothers and sisters. He was born in 1993 in Ixmiquilpan, Hildalgo, Mexico. Martha Peoples loss her son, Terry Paden, and her grandson Harry Lee Thomas in the accident. She and Paden’s fiancé, Shonda Joy, came together to the site of the crash Friday morning. “That’s my son and my grandson,” she said quietly, fighting to stop the tears from flowing. Joy covered her mouth and wept silently. At the time of his death, Thomas was living with Peoples, and Paden and Joy shared a home with their 4-year-old daughter, Shontera, less than two miles from the crash scene. Two days later, both women said the pain had not lessened. “I thank God for him. He was the best and most wonderful child a mother could have. We talked every day, and if I didn’t call him, he called me. We earned a degree in cooking when he was in the Army. He was a great cook and liked to cook us all of our favorite, especially barbecue,” Peoples said, attempting to smile. Paden had lived in Miami, where he wanted to jump-start his musical career as an R & B singer, but had recently moved back to the Gadsden County. Paden and his nephew, Thomas, will have a joint funeral service at 11 a.m., Oct. 20, at Tabernacle Church of God in Gretna. That night, the young men had attended a celebration of life tribute for a friend who passed away recently of congestive heart failure. In the past five years, Sheriff Morris Young said eight people have been killed on that road. “We can’t keep having this. I want to talk with the (FHP) colonel about some solutions, whether it’s calming devices or signage, but I want to start some dialogue,” Young said.