NCFL remembers Chief James Sommers
UPDATE (08/13/2019, 6:22 p.m.):
Suwannee County is remembering a public servant who died last week.
“Its really hurting,” said Ed Sommers, brother of Chief James Sommers. “He was my brother. I loved him dearly. He was a great person.”
Hundreds of people gathered at the Live Oak Cemetery for his burial ceremony and his last call.
Chief Sommers died in a motorcycle accident last Tuesday night in Lake City but his brother said his legacy will have a lasting impact on Suwannee County.
“He brought Suwannee County small-town fire department and brought in big town ideas and that was great for the community,” he said.
Suwannee County Fire Rescue's engine one was draped with purple and black ribbons to honor Sommers.
He was a firefighter for about 20 years and served as Suwannee County's Public Safety Director for the last seven years.
“I truly believed that the community had great respect for my brother and he was a great chief for this community,” he said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags to be raised half-staff at the Suwannee County courthouse, the city hall in Live Oak and at the state capitol in Tallahassee in honor of Sommers' contributions.
UPDATE (08/11/2019, 3:52 p.m.):
The Live Oak Police Department has issued a traffic alert and announced road closures due to the funeral procession and graveside service for Suwannee County Fire Rescue Chief James Sommers on Tuesday, August 13th.
The following areas will be closed to through traffic between 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m.:
1. Northwest Houston Avenue from Winderweedle Avenue to Duval Street
2. Northwest Winderweedle Street from Houston Avenue to U.S. 129
3. Northwest Brown Avenue from Winderweedle Street to U.S. 129
While the service will be held at Christ Central Ministries at 10 a.m. at 217 SW Dyal Avenue in Lake City, the internment itself will directly follow the service at the City of Live Oak Cemetery located at 110 NW Winderweedle Street in Live Oak.
The Suwannee County Public Safety Director James Sommers, 40, died in a motorcycle accident in Lake City, Tuesday after a Board of County Commissioners meeting.
The Florida Highway Patrol says the accident occurred around 8 pm on the intersection of SW Pinemount Road and U.S. Highway 90.
Troopers reported Sommers was riding a motorcycle headed east on U.S. 90 when a vehicle made a left turn in front of Sommers. The motorcycle crashed into the side of the vehicle.
He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was declared deceased.
The other driver sustained no major injuries. FHP is still investigating the crash and charges are pending.
Suwannee County Fire Rescue and law enforcement agencies across north central Florida were in Live Oak to pay their respects to Sommers Thursday afternoon.
“One of my battalion chiefs called and said he had been in the accident and I just couldn't believe it,” said Eddie Hand, assistant chief of Suwannee County Fire Rescue.
Hand said he treated Sommers like his little brother. Two of them were roommates at Florida State Fire College in Ocala over 20 years ago.
“We've got a hard road to fill ahead of us,” Hand said. “He's going to be irreplaceable but were going to do our best as a department to continue his mission in his honor."
Sommers was Suwannee County's Public Safety Director for seven years and was a firefighter for about 20 years.
SCFR took his body to Daniels Funeral Home in Live Oak in preparation for the viewing on Monday.
The community and his co-workers prayed and shared their thoughts on what Sommers meant to them.
“Just devastation, it shocked me,” Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John said. “It's just hard to believe because 30 minutes before that we were sitting together at the county commission meeting talking and joking like we always do."
Hand said he left an impact on the county.
“The amount of accomplishments that he was able to get done during his seven years as our public safety director is just amazing,” Hand said. “We've grown from our starting time together from one fire truck in the county with all-volunteer stations other than the one paid truck to now we're 60 man on shift department and five stations."
St. John said Sommers will be truly missed not only in Suwannee County but in the surrounding counties as well.
“All the surrounding counties knew James and what a good person he was and what a hard worker he was,” St. John said. “I'm telling you, we're all going to miss him terribly bad."
The Suwannee County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook announcing the tragic news.
A viewing will be held on Monday, August 12th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Daniels Funeral Home, located at 1126 N Ohio Avenue in Live Oak.
There will also be a service on Tuesday, August 13th at 10 a.m. at Christ Central Ministries, located at 217 SW Dyal Avenue in Lake City.
Those wishing to attend must contact Suwannee County Fire Rescue to confirm their intentions.