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Residents of the Lighthouse Ministries homeless shelter are grieving after a city street sweeper accidentally ran over and killed a 70-year-old man in the pre-dawn hours Thursday.
The victim was John “Turtle” Gynnip, a long-time resident at the Lighthouse Ministries, according to fellow resident Allen Karlowa.
“A small memorial service was held at the Lighthouse men’s shelter on Thursday evening,” Karlowa said in an email to LkldNow.
Lakeland Police spokeswoman Robin Tillett said the driver of the street sweeper, a 57-year-old man who has worked for the city for 17 years, was operating the vehicle on North Tennessee Street at 4:43 a.m. near the NoBay apartments.
When the driver turned right onto East Oak Street, he told investigators that he “felt an impact,” according to a press release. He looked in his rear view mirror and saw a person lying in the roadway.
He got out of his vehicle and immediately called 9-1-1. A Lakeland Police Department patrol unit, Polk County Fire Rescue and the Lakeland Fire Department all rushed to the intersection, where the 70-year-old man was found to be dead.
“At this time, traffic homicide detectives are unsure what the pedestrian was doing in the roadway at the time of the crash,” officials said.
Karlowa said it was part of Gynnip’s routine.
“It was normal for him to be up and about at this time in the morning,” Karlowa said.
Investigators are working to determine if the vehicle or a prior medical event caused Gynnip’s death.
The city’s website says it has six street sweepers that it uses to maintain 551 miles of curbed streets. Each year, the machines clean the equivalent of 20,000 miles of roadway and collect 2,500 tons of debris, preventing it from entering the storm sewer system. The Public Works department strives to sweep each curbed street within the city twice a month.
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