Bertie County man among 3 killed by hit-and-run driver in Florida


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA/WAVY) — A Bertie County, North Carolina, man was one of three killed in Florida after deputies say they were mowed down Wednesday night by a hit-and-run driver. 

52-year-old George Cesil, of Colerain, North Carolina, was working with two other men to help restore power to the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael.

Deputies say 37-year-old John Goedtke was driving a truck that was towing a U-Haul trailer and hit the three workers on a state highway in Washington County just before 7 p.m.

Cesil and 60-year-old James Ussery of Chipley, Florida, died at the scene.

The third worker, 22-year-old Ryan Barrett from Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, was airlifted to a Florida hospital in critical condition. He died from his injuries on Thursday.

Deputies say Goedtke ran away from the crash scene, but was later spotted by a police officer and taken into custody.

Goedtke was charged with felony DUI manslaughter, felony vehicular homicide and felony leaving the scene. Additional charges are pending. 

Barrett and Cesil were both employed through Lee Electrical Construction. On Thursday, the company issued a statement on their deaths:

George (age 52) had worked with us for approximately 6 years serving as an exceptional Foreman for most of that time. Ryan (age 22) had worked with us for 5 months but was quickly showing promise in our industry.

We will not be making any other public statements at this time out of respect for their families.

Our deepest sympathies go out to their family and friends. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they go through this extremely difficult time.

“He was ready to come home and get near that water again,” said Cesil’s son George Cesil.

Cesil loved the beauty of the Chowan River.

“He loved going out there fishing,” George added.

He loved it so much, he built his retirement home just yards from the banks in Colerain.

“He didn’t frame it and he didn’t do the siding, but the trim, the deck, all the wiring and everything on the inside he did,” said Cesil’s brother Robert Cesil.

Cesil spent his time at the home, but when he wasn’t he was at work he was foreman for the local power company. 

“He loved it,” George Cesil added.  “That was his work his pride and joy.”

The 51-year-old was always first to volunteer to help those after a disaster.  He left to head to Florida a month ago after the area was devastated by Hurricane Michael.

“He was due to hopefully come home Saturday and we wanted to get together,” Robert added.  “Never again.”

Goedtke has been arrested in Hillsborough County 27 times since he was 19 years-old, according to jail records.

In the past he’s been in trouble for drugs, battery, driving with a suspended or revoked license, grand theft, grand theft of motor vehicle, fraudulent use of a credit card, burglary, felony fleeing to elude, reckless driving, and resisting an officer with violence.

“There’s just no excuse for it,” Robert said.  “It’s pathetic and I miss my brother more than anything.”

Geodtke is facing a list of charges, but the victim’s family says the focus shouldn’t be on him, but what he took.

“I wish I could learn from him,” George said about his dad.  “He had a lot to give.  He had a lot of good information to give. I’ll miss that.  I’ll miss that bonding time.”

“I just want him to be remembered as a hero, because he was definitely my hero and I loved him so much,” Robert added.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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