A father believes his son’s wheelchair contributed to his death in a crash

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
emanuel and john Credit: John Sandefur

A father in Southwest Florida believes his son’s death in a recent crash could have been avoided.

John Sandefur’s son, 21-year-old Emanuel Sandefur, was killed in a crash last Friday in Hendry County.

Emanuel was on track to graduate from college, despite living with Cerebral Palsy.

His dad believes that his son’s wheelchair contributed to his death.

“Knowing that he’s not gonna be there … and I know it’s not gonna hit me harder until I put him in the ground,” John said.

John and Emanuel were involved in a crash with another vehicle on State Road 29 last week. Crash investigators say a van turned onto the road right in front of the Sandefurs’ own van, and they were hit on the passenger’s side, where Emanuel was sitting.

“Knowing that when I wake up, not having him there,” John said.

John strapped Emanuel’s wheelchair to a pole near the site of the crash, which he’s turned into a makeshift memorial for his son.

“Every time that I see that, I want to see him there,” John said. “I don’t want to see the wheelchair. I want to see my son there.”

The wheelchair is also a reminder of the what-ifs and could-have-beens for John. He said that Emanuel applied for a new wheelchair through Medicaid, but it was denied.

The wheelchair he had didn’t allow Emanuel to sit safely in the back of the van. So, he sat in the passenger seat, the seat where he died.

“If he would’ve been bound in his wheelchair, he’d be living to this day, I feel,” John said.

The chair also serves as a reminder, a tribute to Emanuel’s legacy of love, perseverance and positivity.

“We’re used to seeing him roll out every morning and say ‘Hi, have a good day at school,'” neighbor Keith Billings said. “We’re all gonna miss him.”

John Sandefur said he hopes his son’s story reminds parents and children alike that no day is guaranteed. Every moment between parent and child is precious, and to be grateful for each one.

John also said Emanuel never gave up on himself despite his challenges. Emanuel was working his way through technical school and wanted to become a movie producer.

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