Family mourns a military vet and father killed trying to help strangers

Mark Ries has not stopped crying. The father of three still can't believe his eldest and only son, Chad, is dead.
 
"He was a great person," Ries said.
 
For Chad's mother, Teresa Whittmer, the crash that killed him Saturday doesn’t seem real. 
 
“I keep thinking maybe he is at work and he is going to come home," she said.
 
The crash occurred as the 32-year-old headed home with his father after his sister's gymnastics meet in Orlando. Just two hours after parting ways, she received the call every parent dreads.
 
"Chad is dead. Chad is dead. Hit by a car," Mark Ries said.
 
Whittmer, who lives in Ohio, got to the scene as soon as she could.
 
"I just could not think straight," Whittmer said. "He is my son. The best son. And now he's gone."
 
Florida Highway Patrol troopers said Chad Ries died instantly, never making it to the crash site of two drivers he tried to help at Mirabay Boulevard and US 41. 
 
His wife, Christen, and two babies – only 2 and 3 years old – watched in horror as another car hit him, throwing him 20 feet.
 
The driver, whom troopers identified as 22-year-old Angel Hernandez of Ruskin, stopped after the crash.
 
"This is all still under investigation," said FHP spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins.
 
For these two parents there's no comfort.
 
"I know people try to do good deeds and help people out. Then people wonder why people don't help people out, and this is one of the reasons why," Whittmer said.
 
"I did blame the driver that night. I'm a father. I would have torn that sucker apart. My son was dead. All I can say is that I hope that individual is very sorry," Mark Ries said.
 
Their son served in the military and did tours in Iraq. He returned as a private contractor and survived. They said they are not surprised he stopped to help the drivers, who have not been identified, because protecting people is in his blood.
 
But now the family who need his help the most are without their loved one.
 
"He was just the best," Whittmer said. "He loved being a father and husband."
 
“To err is human and to forgive is divine.  I hope to forgive […] someday but today is not that day," said Ries.
 
Chad Ries worked as a consulting systems service engineer for World Wide Technology. His family said the company told them it would pick up the cost of his funeral.
 
His body will be flown back to Ohio, where he is from.
 
In the meantime, the family is asking for donations to help Chad's children, 3-year-old Cierra and 2-year-old Cayden. The money will be used for the children's college fund and living expenses.
 
If you would like to help the family you can donate money at any SunTrust Bank
in care of the Christen Ries fund.
 
Or you can mail your donation to the SunTrust branch at 502 U.S. 41 N., Ruskin, FL 33570.
Print this article Back to Top

Comments