Justin Poteet liked to walk.
That’s why his mother, Robin Bailey, dropped him off at the Richland Walmart off Queensgate Drive on Nov. 5.
The snow wasn’t falling yet, but it was cold. Darkness quickly approached.
Poteet, 27, had walked about a mile along Columbia Park Trail when the first call came into the emergency dispatch center.
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Someone spotted him walking in the middle of the road, and said they were worried drivers might not see him. A minute later, he was hit. He died five days later.
A quiet, active man
Bailey, of Benton City, said her son was a quiet man who grew up in Prosser, but had recently lived in Benton City.
He worked at a local Safeway in the past, but his real talent was welding.
In high school, he played basketball and football at Prosser High School. He was an avid snowboarder and skater.
While he regularly attend Friendship Baptist Church in Prosser, Bailey said his attendance slackened in recent years.
“He’s had the same preacher forever,” she said.
One of his Facebook posts from 2011 says, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.”
Carrie Reynolds didn’t know any of that when she stopped to help him in the roadway Nov. 5.
The Richland woman was getting ready to go to a friend’s wedding in Mexico.
Now, she’s going to Poteet’s funeral Saturday after becoming close to Poteet’s sister, Lolli Bailey.
‘Never took his hands off him’
She also didn’t know Jefferson T. Person, 61, until that night.
Person was driving ahead of her on Columbia Park Trail in a Dodge pickup.
He hit Poteet from behind in the darkness, said Benton County sheriff’s investigators.
Reynolds was two cars behind Person’s truck when he stopped. The other car drove around Person and left, while she pulled up beside Person’s truck. He hadn’t gotten out yet, though his hazard lights were on.
She rolled down her window to see if he needed help. The lights from her car shone on Poteet, lying on the wet pavement.
Both drivers got to Poteet’s side but they didn’t know if it was safe to move him.
Life is short. No matter what, always extend your love and comfort to others in need.
Reynolds said they got a blanket to put over him. The snow started to lightly fall and the temperature was dropping.
“Jeff never took his hands off of him,” Reynolds said, choking back tears. “Like he was trying to put his energy into him.”
Poteet was rushed to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland but his injuries were too severe and he lived just five days.
Lolli Bailey of Prosser, Poteet’s sister, said that nurses at Kadlec ran a toxicology screen on Poteet.
It came back negative, Lolli Bailey said.
The Benton County Coroner’s Office ruled Poteet’s death as an accident, though the sheriff’s office has yet to finish its investigation, said Lt. Steve Caughey.
‘We’re all connected’
Reynolds was waiting for a flight at the airport on Nov. 7, when she reached out to people on Facebook. She found Lolli Bailey that way.
They called each other and talked. Reynolds relayed her story.
“I just sat in the airport and just cried with her,” Reynolds said. “I think that gave her the comfort that she needed to hear.”
She calls Person “her guardian angel,” saving her from “complete devastation that I would not know how to process.”
Reynolds told the Herald that Person was a lot stronger than her, able to react in ways she couldn’t. Somehow, his willpower and faith gave him what he needed to respond.
I just sat in the airport and just cried with her. I think that gave her the comfort that she needed to hear.
But Lolli Bailey said that Reynolds was there to comfort her younger brother. Reynolds said that “my motherly instinct rose to the occasion.”
And, Lolli Bailey said, the family doesn’t blame her or Person. They did everything they could, she said.
Poteet’s organs were donated. Lolli Bailey said his heart already was given to someone.
Reynolds said she’s passed by the site of the crash a few times.
“Life is short,” she said. “No matter what, always extend your love and comfort to others in need.”
His funeral services are at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Friendship Baptist Church in Prosser, 1801 Paterson Road.