Health of Teen Hurt in Suwannee County Crash Improves

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Live Oak, Florida- The health of a 19-year-old hurt in a crash two weeks ago that killed a 21-year-old man is improving.

Dillon Gardner has been upgraded from 'fair' to 'good' condition at Shands Hospital.

Gardner was a passenger in a pickup being driven by John Matthews. The Florida Highway Patrol says their pickup went off the road along Country Road 249 just outside of Live Oak, flipped over and hit a tree.

Matthews was killed in the crash. He was not wearing a seat belt

Live Oak, Florida - On the week the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch celebrates its 55th anniversary, a big part of that ranch is missing.

Twenty-one year old 'Big' John Matthews was killed in a crash just a few miles from the ranch where he grew-up. He was not wearing a seat belt.

"It's almost like seeing your brother go. It's heart breaking," says Cody Pressley who grew-up with Matthews on Boys Ranch.

"One of the reasons people called him 'Big John' was not only his size, but his personality," says Steven Wright who works at Boys Ranch.

"I would just remember him as a soft spirit person," says Georgette Bryant, Matthews' cottage mom at Boys Ranch.

The Florida Highway Patrol says Matthews was driving along County Road 249 when he lost control of his pickup truck while driving along a curve, flipping the truck over and killing himself and injuring his friend, 18-year-old Dillon Gardner.

Matthews was an accomplished athlete, especially the baseball diamond where Matthews' 6'5" 220lb frame made him a man among boys.

But the one thing bigger than Matthews' hulking size and big swing, was his heart.

"He's an amazing character. He's one of the friends you would want to have in your life and not let go. Someone you can count on and rely on. Always there for you no matter what," says Jamie Alvardo who grew up with Matthews at Boys Ranch.

A brick wall at Boys Ranch stands as a memorial for all the boys, present and former, who've passed away. Next year, the ranch says it plans to add Matthews' name to the wall.

Matthews leaves behind a son, and a younger brother and sister.

The survivor of that crash, Dillon Gardner is in 'fair' condition at Shands.
18 year old Wayne Gardner is at Shands Hospital. As of this afternoon, his condition has been upgraded from critical to fair.

Suwannee County, FL - A 21-year-old Suwannee man is dead and a teen is critically injured after the pickup they were in crashed into a tree and lands on top of one of them.

21-year-old Jonathan Matthews and 18-year-old Wayne Gardner crashed just before 1 a.m. Wednesday

Matthews was driving a Ford F-150 pickup along County Road 249 about 6.5 miles outside of Live Oak when they crashed. The Florida Highway Patrol say Mathews was going around a curve when his tires went off the roadway and onto the west grass. As Mathews got his truck back on the road, he crossed over into the east shoulder. That's where the truck flipped over, and hit a tree with its roof. Matthews was ejected and the truck landed on top of him. Gardner was flown to Shands. He's listed there in critical condition. FHP says Matthews was not wearing a seat belt.

Suwannee County, FL - A one car accident occurred on County Rd 249 south of County Road 132 in Suwannee County at 12:45 am on October 3, 2012.

The accident claimed the life of the driver, Jonathan Michael Matthews, age 21 of Live Oak, FL. One passenger, Dillon Wayne Gardner, age 18, also of Live Oak, FL is listed in critical condition at Shands Hospital at the University of Florida.

Matthews was driving the Ford F-150 pickup truck, traveling southbound on County Road 249, approximately 6.5 miles north of Live Oak when, while negotiating a curve to the left, the right side tires of the pickup truck traveled off the roadway onto the west grass shoulder. The driver then over-corrected and lost control. The pickup truck traveled back across the roadway and onto the east grass shoulder where it overturned and struck a tree with its roof. The driver, Jonathan Michael Mat thews, was ejected and the pickup truck came to final rest on its roof on top of him.

Matthews was pronounced deceased on scene by Suwannee County
Fire Rescue. The right front passenger, Dillon Wayne Gardner, was flown to Shands-UF Hospital in critical condition.

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