A close family friend of a U.S. Marine killed in a San Diego highway crash said it’s tragic the young man was killed trying to help others.
Lance Corporal Richard “Ricky” Jones, 20, died Saturday when he and a fellow Marine got out to help the driver in a traffic accident along Interstate 8 in the Mission Valley area of San Diego.
Jones was a former volunteer firefighter in Niagara County, New York before being stationed in San Diego as an active duty Marine.
Fire Chief Bruce Mack remembers Jones as a “good kid” who volunteered with his department. He said he and the Marine’s family are shocked by the news of Jones’ death.
“It just seems like it's pretty tragic you know to be involved in the accident you know. I think Ricky, from what I understand, got out to either help somebody that was involved in the earlier stages of it,” Mack said. “To give your life like that, it’s a noble deed but it’s a pretty terrible thing for everybody who is left behind to deal with.”
California Highway Patrol officers are not sure if Jones died from injuries he sustained by jumping out of the path of an oncoming car or if he was struck by the vehicle.
His body was found along an underpass, just beneath the site of the I-8 crash.
CHP officers said a Honda Civic lost control around 5 a.m. and struck a barrier, landing in the middle of the freeway. Shortly thereafter, officials said three other cars slammed into the Honda.
Jones and a fellow Marine were in one of those vehicles – a Ford truck – on their way to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. They got out of their truck and walked over to the woman in the Honda to help.
The surviving Marine, who has not been identified by officials, said he dodged an oncoming car by jumping over the freeway barrier and landing about 20 feet below.
CHP officials said they are still trying to determine whether Jones was struck by a car or if he jumped and fell to his death while also trying to dodge the vehicle.
Jones joined the Niagara County volunteer fire department by following in his dad’s footsteps. He started with the youth program and moved up through the ranks, Mack said.
When he graduated high school Jones decided to enlist in the military service and he took off for the U.S. Marine Corps in Oct. 2012.
He was assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, according to Marine Corps officials.
"We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Lance Corporal Jones," said Brig. Gen. James Bierman, commanding general of MCRD. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult period. We're proud that Lance Corporal Jones' final actions were focused on helping others in need - this shows the kind of young man he was."
Jones became a miltary policeman at the depot in July 2013. His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.