Justin Mitchell, 25 – FL

conservation-jm Justin Mitchell died alongside his best friend, Ronald Garrett Viccaro, on April 1, 2013 at the age of 25. Justin had just turned 25, and Garrett was two days away from his 25th birthday, and so they both went fishing (one of their favorite pastimes) on the Eau Gallie Causeway Bridge in Indian Harbour Beach.  A driver was looking at his cell phone while driving and when his vehicle veered onto the shoulder, both Justin and Garrett were killed. Justin and Garrett had been friends since elementary school.

Justin was born on March 15, 1988 in Melbourne, Florida to Kimberly Wright and the late Harold Franklin Mitchell, Jr. He graduated from Satellite High School and attended the University of Florida, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology. He was engaged to marry Whitney Parks at the time of his death.

Justin Mitchell.JPG 2“As much an adventurer as an environmentalist, he truly appreciated the beauty that this world had to offer and lived every day to the fullest,” his obituary read. Justin’s love of wildlife and nature was so well known that he was honored with the Charlie Corbeil Conservation Award on April 25, 2014 alongside the Corbeil, a Florida master naturalist and nature photographer who died in Fall 2013. The award was given to individuals who “made a difference in helping man live in harmony with nature.”

Justin Mitchell.JPG 14Justin also also honored at the 8th Annual Viera Wetlands Nature Festival, where he had spent countless hours waiting and watching for untold species of wildlife, including everything from river otters to bald eagles.

Of these awards, Justin’s mother Kimberly was appreciative, however they did little to numb the pain. “It doesn’t make it better. Nothing makes it better,” she told the Viera Voice. “I am so numb, I don’t even know how I feel. A lot of people are more angry about Justin than I am. It’s just such a crazy, stupid thing to happen that makes no sense at all. Anger definitely is easier to feel than grief,” Kimberly said.

The driver was given a mere $169 ticket and suspended license as punishment, as well as ordered to perform community service projects selected by the families of both young men. The Mitchell family had the driver build a memorial at the Viera Wetlands.

“When you’re operating a motor vehicle, the way it can impact other people can be deadly,” Kimberly said to Florida Today. “And it can ruin your life. Just a few seconds can ruin your life.”

[Read about Justin’s friend, Ronald Garrett Viccaro here.]