Guardsman in crash was from Bridgeport
By Frank Juliano and Fausto Giovanny Pinto | Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, Conn. | Published: August 10, 2014
Ronald Patterson III waited Friday for his cellphone to light up from a call or text from his father, like always.
He never got the call.
A day after a crash on I-95 claimed the life of the Connecticut National Guardsman, family and friends said the feeling of losing the Bridgeport native was surreal.
"Damn dad, are you gone?" said his son, 25, teary-eyed. "I don't believe it."
Staff Sgt. Ronald Patterson Jr., 43, was a passenger in a military truck being driven by Sgt. 1st Class Kayla Anne Downey, 31, of Shelton, when the vehicle rolled over in a collision on I-95 southbound in Rye, N.Y., just over the Connecticut border and at the entrance to I-287.
Downey who was reported in critical condition at a local area hospital Thursday had improved Friday, according to Capt. Dawn Marie Surprenant, Public Affairs Officer Connecticut National Guard.
Gov. Dannel Malloy has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff in Patterson Jr.'s memory.
Col. Michael E. Wieczorek, chief of staff of the Connecticut Army National Guard, said the truck -- known in military terms as a light medium tactical vehicle (LMTV) -- was headed on a routine trip to Fort Dix in New Jersey to turn in spent ammunition from a recent training exercise. No live rounds were onboard.
The crash left the truck on its roof on the grass on the shoulder. A car with front-end damage sat on the highway facing the wrong way, and ammunition crates and spent artillery casings were strewn nearby, the Army Times reported.
A 40-foot-tall light pole that had been knocked down lay partly under the truck.
Traffic on I-95 was backed up for hours after the crash; at one point delays reached into Darien.
Patterson had heard about the crash from his father's girlfriend. As a new mother she worried that the father of her almost 2-month old daughter was involved in the crash. As her calls went unanswered she asked Patterson if he had heard anything.
Patterson said he then called his dad over 100 times, without an answer. Later that day his grandmother broke the news to him.
"We went to Six Flags last week in Mass.," said Patterson, recalling the last time he saw his father. "He wouldn't get on the roller coasters but I just remember how happy his face on the water slide."
He said his father was a very stern man who was devoted to his kids. Together they enjoyed playing Madden video games on Xbox, which Patterson Jr. was unbeatable.
People who knew Patterson Jr. said he attended Central high school and enrolled in the military right after. They added that he was involved with the Army and National Guard and had spent numerous tours overseas including Operation Iraqi Freedom, as confirmed by a Connecticut National Guard Spokeswoman, who added he had received numerous awards and decoration for his service.
"I'm going to miss the genuine conversations I had with him," said a friend who declined to give his name out of respect for the family. "We would talk till the sun came up."
The friend said he considered Patterson Jr. a big brother and grew up with him and a bunch of other kids in the neighborhood riding bikes, hanging out and becoming the men they are today, still close.
The news stunned everyone said the friend.
He is now planning to hang a photo of Patterson Jr. in his house right next to his kids.
"He touched a lot of lives and was there for all of us," said the friend. "He had a family in and out the Army."
Patterson Jr. and Downey are members of A Company, 192nd Engineer Battalion, Connecticut Army National Guard based out of Stratford, Guard spokeswoman Capt. Dawn Surprenant said.
Civilian and military authorities are continuing to investigate. Ronald Patterson Jr.'s body was to be autopsied on Friday.
Maj. Gen. Thaddeus J. Martin, adjutant general and commander of the Connecticut National Guard expressed his concern and condolences to the families and soldiers affected.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Staff Sgt. Patterson Jr. and with Sgt. 1st Class Downey and her family," said Martin. "The full resources of the Connecticut National Guard will be available to the families and fellow soldiers of Patterson and Downey who have been affected by this tragedy."
Besides his son Patterson III, Patterson Jr. leaves behind three other children and his parents.
"It's screwed up he's not going to meet my child," who is due in December, said Patterson. "That would have been real special seeing my father meet my first child."