May 03, 2004
20-Year-Old Deputy Killed in Crash
Officer Down: Joshua Blyler - [St. Augustine, Florida]
St. Johns County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Blyler loved Jesus, his family, fast cars and law enforcement, his aunt said.
The 20-year-old died Sunday after crashing his patrol car on County Road 210 en-route to a 911 hang-up. He lost control at 3:19 a.m. while eastbound on a curve west of Canal Boulevard. He over-corrected, hit a mailbox, then crashed into a pole and tree, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Blyler was the first St. Johns County deputy to perish on duty since 1983, Sheriff Neil Perry said.
"This was a fine young man doing his job ... This is, in fact, one of the worst tragedies in my 20 years as sheriff," Perry said in a media conference Sunday afternoon.
Blyler's aunt, Tammy Ruis, said her nephew was "fun, adventurous, caring, every mother's ideal son."
Ruis was with Blyler's family Sunday afternoon at their home in Jacksonville. Ruis' sister and her husband, Blyler's parents, were too exhausted to comment.
"It's been a long day. They came this morning before six o'clock to tell them," Ruis said.
The deeply Christian family was shocked, but "has peace, knowing he's with the Lord," Ruis said.
"He loved the Lord. He loved his job very, very much," Ruis said.
Blyler was born and raised in Jacksonville, where he attended Paxon School and First Coast Christian School, Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Kelshaw said. He graduated from the St. Johns River Community College Law Enforcement Academy in July 2003. A month later, the Sheriff's Office hired him. He completed the Field Training officer program in December and was assigned to the Ponte Vedra Beach area, Kelshaw said
"Being a police officer has always been a dream of mine," Blyler wrote on his job application.
"I would be greatly honored to serve on the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office," he wrote.
Blyler signed up with St. Johns County because he had been too young for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Ruis said. He used to call his mother, Jean, every day. He always wanted to share his new experiences, she said.
A couple of years ago, Blyler considered going into the ministry, she said. He even signed up for ministry school, but he changed his mind to become a police officer, she said. He wanted to help people.
For fun, he worked on his white Camaro, Ruis said. He loved car shows and wanted to fix up an old car with his father, Johnny, she said.
"He loved fast cars. He and his dad worked on fast cars together," she said.
Blyler was well-liked by his co-workers and by people who knew him, Perry said.
"A lot of our folks will be going through some tremendous pain for a while," he said.
Blyler was conscious for a time after the accident, and he could communicate with St. Johns County rescue workers who witnessed the accident, Perry said. They cut the roof off his car and pulled him out.
Blyler was air-lifted to Shands Jacksonville hospital and pronounced dead at 5:07 a.m., the crash report said.
The last St. Johns County Sheriff's deputy killed in the line-of-duty was Joseph Solano Sr. The 54-year-old died in a traffic crash Feb. 22, 1983, while driving his motorcycle to an evening shift at the county jail, the Sheriff's Office said.
On Sunday, the flag at the Sheriff's Office flew at half-mast. Deputies wore black bands around their badges. Civilian employees will wear black arm-bands at work today.
Blyler's family will discuss memorial service arrangements today, Ruis said.