[UPDATE] Sheriff's Deputy Killed in Crash

By: WCTV Staff, Danielle Sommerfeld, Jerry Askin Email
By: WCTV Staff, Danielle Sommerfeld, Jerry Askin Email

UPDATED 5-24-11 at 2:45pm By Candace Sweat

The funeral for Gary Edwards has been scheduled for Saturday, May 28th at 10a.m. at the First Baptist Church in Live Oak, Fl.

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UPDATE 05-23-2011 at 6:30pm by Jerry Askin

"I didn't believe it at first. I still don't believe it because it just don't seem right," says Denzel Washington, an eighth grader at Suwannee Middle School.

That's the feeling of many Suwannee Middle School students and teachers as they remember their school resource officer of 15 years and head football coach, Gary Edwards.

"He was a coach on the field and after the field. He was just a really good friend to you," says Brannin Pineda, a seventh grader at the school.

Several students like Pineda signed a banner in memory of Edwards, someone many students say motivated them to be the best they could be.

"He was like a father to most people. He taught them stuff. He was always there when people needed him and when he smiled, you wanted to smile to because he was always smiling," says Ty'Eisha Williams, an eighth grader at the school.

Troopers says Edwards was traveling along State Road 51 Saturday when 53-year old Pedro Levya, who troopers say was likely driving drunk, hit his car from behind, causing Edwards to swerve off the road and hit a pole.

"He's just a great man and he don't seem like he gone to me because he was an important man to my life and an important man to our football team," says Jadames Gardener, a sixth grader at the school.

We spoke with the school's principal, Norri Stelle, who says Edwards will never be forgotten.

Steele says, "Someone will, of course,,take the job, but no one will take his place."

School officials say Edwards leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

As for Levya, he had his first appearance Sunday morning and remains in the Suwannee County Jail. His bond has been set at $100,000.

He's charged with DUI with serious bodily injury, but we’re told those charges could be upgraded to vehicular homicide.

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[UPDATE] 5-23 Noon -

A Suwannee County Sheriff's deputy is killed in a weekend crash after FHP says a drunk driver hit his vehicle from the rear. The impact caused the deputy to swerve off the road and hit a utility pole.

FHP says 43-year-old Gary Edwards was off-duty Saturday night when just after 10pm, 52-year old Pedro Levya hit him from the rear while driving east on State Road 51 In Suwannee county.

Edwards' truck spun of control and hit a utility pole. Authorities say the driver who caused the accident is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he hit Edwards.

Levya had his first appearance on May 22 and remains in the Suwannee County Jail with a bond of $100,000.

Gary Edwards was a sheriff's deputy for about 15 years in the county and worked as a school resource officer at Suwannee Middle.

Coming up later on Eyewitness News, you'll hear from folks who worked with Edwards personally and their reactions to the tragic loss.
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UPDATE: 12:50

The Suwannee County Sheriff says that The Florida Highway Patrol is now expected to upgrade the charge against Pedro Leyva to Vehicular Homicide.
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(UPDATED): 10:00 p.m. 5/22

State Road 51 was a familiar ride to Deputy Gary Edwards who patrolled Suwannee middle school and worked in Suwannee County for about 15 years.

His Co-workers say, they did more than just work together, they were like family.

SGT. Tammy Lee says, "The last time I saw him was Wednesday at the school and I was picking up my son from school. He again had to say one more thing to make me smile and I'll always remember that last thing that he said."

FHP reports, The 43- year old was off duty Saturday night when just after ten he was driving on State Road 51.

53- year old Pedro Leyva was driving behind Edwards.

Levya is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs and hit the rear of Edwards' truck.

Edward's truck was struck, spun out of control and hit a utility pole.

Students and parents say, they will miss Edwards.

Dakota Simmons, a Suwannee Middle School Student says, "He was a very nice person, always helped us out with all of our problems no matter what they were and he was always supportive. I'm gonna miss you Gary Edwards."

Jessie Simmons, a local parent says, "He just watched out for them... All my kids tell me and all the kids that come to my house and hang out say he was really a great person. He was a pillar in the community."

FHP says, after the accident Edwards was taken to Shands Hospital where he died late Sunday Morning.

Leyva was arrested for DUI and the Suwannee County Sheriff says, FHP is expected to upgrade the charge to Vehicular Homicide
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UPDATED: 1:49 p.m. 5/22/11

Gary Edwards has died of his injuries, according to Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron.

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Florida Highway Patrol says a Suwannee County Deputy Sheriff was hit in a Saturday evening, alcohol related crash.

Troopers say at 10:10 p.m.on May 21, 53-year-old Pedro Leyva was traveling northbound on State Road 51 in a 2008 Nissan Altima sedan

FHP says 43-year-old Gary Edwards was heading northbound on State Road 51 in front of Leyva's sedan, in a 1994 Ford Ranger pickup truck.

A press release from FHP says Edwards was traveling at a slower speed than Leyva's sedan. The front of Layva's sedan hit the rear of Edwards' pickup truck causing it to travel out of control off the west shoulder where the right side of the pickup struck a utility pole.

The release also states Edwards was not wearing a seat belt at the time.

Troopers say Edwards was taken to Shands-UF Hospital in critical condition. Leyva was not injured and was placed under arrest for DUI/Serious Bodily Injury.

Edwards is a Deputy Sheriff for Suwannee County who works as the Resource Officer at Suwannee County Middle School.

Edwards was off-duty in his personal vehicle at the time of this crash.
Pedro Terrero Leyva faces charges of DUI/Serious Bodily Injury, Open Container, and Careless Driving.


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