CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - We've learned a local man is among those who died in that horrific accident in Florida. Jason Raikes grew up in Chester and graduated from L.C Bird High School.
It's a devastating and heartbreaking loss. Jason recently moved to Florida to be with his girlfriend. Friends say he was happy -- living life to the fullest - when his life suddenly ended.
26-year-old Jason Raikes will be missed.
"I felt like his life was just starting because he was finally happy...it's incredibly unfair that something like this would happen to him," said friend Erin Johnson.
Erin Johnson met Jason at band camp in high school. Joshua Squires and Jason became fast friends in middle school.
"He was kind hearted. Not the slightest bit judgmental and we were incredibly proud of him," said Joshua.
Jason and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Christie Diana Nguyen, were among 10 people who died in a pileup on Interstate 75 in Florida this past weekend. Christie was in the passenger's seat -- Jason was behind the wheel.
"He was funny, great whit, he was a smart alec -- and that's what made you love him," Erin said.
His friends say Jason was happy -- following his dreams.
"He managed to get himself a great job, beautiful girlfriend - move to an exciting new city and he was living his dream," said Joshua.
Joshua will remember Jason's giving spirit. "There were a couple of people -- who had hard times -- they didn't have anywhere to go or a place to stay and Jason opened his home to them."
Erin says the pain is unbearable. It's hard to hold back tears. She wonders why this happened and wishes her friend was still here.
"It was an accident and that's why they call it an accident, but it doesn't make it any easier," said Erin.
I'm told Jason's parents have left Virginia and are now in Florida to pick-up their son's remains. Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.