Man struck by hit-and-run driver dies
SEBRING - A man who was struck by a vehicle while walking along Desoto City Road last month died Sunday around 6:30 p.m. at a Sebring hospice. A Celebration of Life service will be held Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Sebring for Jonny “JT” Tanner, a well-known man in the community. The family asked that those attending the service wear their favorite collegiate apparel to show off their favorite team. That Tanner, a sports fan and a volunteer coach, was loved in the community was especially evident when last month several hundred people held a prayer rally for him.And just last week, volunteers at the Desoto City Volunteer Fire Department held a car wash and bake sale to help the family. It was estimated that at least 150 cars were washed. “Our family would like to again express our heartfelt appreciation for all the love, support, generosity and prayers,” his wife, Candace, said in a statement provided to Highlands Today. “Heaven’s gain is our loss.” Kay Howell, a family friend who has known Tanner for around a decade, recalled that he “always had a smile on his face.” He was a very caring person, who was always ready to help and enjoyed coaching kids, she said. “I’ll miss his smile, laugh and sense of humor,” she said. “My heart just breaks for the family.” Tanner was a former volunteer firefighter for the Desoto City Volunteer Fire Department. He also had previously worked for the State Department of Transportation and was a traffic technician 1 at Highlands County Traffic Operations. Eddie Cardona, his supervisor and traffic operations supervisor, said Tanner’s job included installing, maintaining and repairing county road signs. Cardona said Tanner was eager to help out wherever he was needed and he was dedicated. “There wasn’t any job he wouldn’t do, no matter what it was,” Cardona said. “If you told him to walk through a wall of fire, he would do it.” Cardona said Tanner would volunteer during many community events, including teaching softball to mentally challenged adults and coaching youth in softball and basketball. That he was a volunteer fireman, in addition to all the other volunteering he did, “shows a lot about his character,” Cardona said. The situation leading to his death occurred when he was walking April 5 and authorities say that Mitchell Landoll Rodriguez was driving and struck Tanner with his vehicle. Rodriguez was charged with driving while license suspended, second offense; failure to remain at scene of an accident with injuries; and giving false information to a law enforcement officer. As to whether Tanner’s death will result in additional charges against Rodriguez is undecided. Lt. Gregory S. Bueno of the Florida Highway Patrol said that once the patrol is officially notified of the death, a traffic homicide investigation will begin and consultations will start with the State Attorney’s Office on whether any additional charges are warranted.