Suspect pleads no contest lineman case

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A man accused of killing three linemen who were working to restore power after Hurricane Michael pleaded no contest in the case Thursday.

John Goedtke entered an open plea Thursday to three counts of DUI manslaughter, one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving death, and one count of driving while license suspended or revoked.

As part of the plea, Goedtke admitted to driving north down State 77 at a high rate of speed in October 2018. He swerved into the southbound lane, causing trucks to drive into a ditch and onto the shoulder. As Goedtke’s truck and U-Haul trailer swerved back into the northbound lane, and the trailer fishtailed. The vehicle careened through a ditch and launched up over Talton Road. When it landed, it hit the three men.

Ryan Barrett was a 22-year-old employee of Lee Electric Construction. His supervisor, George Cesil, was 52. James “Bo” Ussery was 61. He was a lineman with West Florida Electric Cooperative. They were standing beneath the power lines 20 feet from the edge of the roadway.

Cesil died at the scene. Barrett died shortly thereafter while a life flight helicopter was en route. Ussery died at the hospital.

Goedtke faces a minimum sentence of approximately 34 years and a maximum sentence of life. He is set to be sentenced Monday.

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