Family Grieves After Sons, Ages 12 And 25, Killed The Same Way

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One family was left feeling as though the world had stopped after losing not one but two sons, exactly three months apart. Making matters worse, the brothers, who were 12 and 25 years old, were even killed the same way.

Jason Penkacik and his wife Shawnee (Photo Credit: Facebook)

Three months after Jason Penkacik and his wife Shawnee lost their 12-year-old son, Brighton, the grieving Florida parents woke up to a knock at the door early one Friday morning. It was the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office with news no parent ever wants to hear. The Penkacik’s 25-year-old son, Dalton, had been killed exactly three months to the day that Brighton had lost his life. Shockingly, the older brother had died the same way his younger brother did.

According to authorities, at approximately 1:15 a.m. on that fateful Friday, a Jacksonville police officer was en route to an unrelated call when something lying across the inside southbound lane of the 4500 block of Blanding Boulevard caught his eye. It appeared to be a man in his mid-20s after being struck by a driver who then “fled the scene without rendering aid, calling for help, or reporting the incident,” the Florida Times-Union reported.

The hit-and-run victim, later identified as Dalton by the Penkaciks, was pronounced dead at the scene by Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department personnel. The 25-year-old had been walking to his job at an Amazon delivery center when he was struck and killed in the overnight hit-and-run accident—just 2.5 miles from where his younger brother had died exactly three months prior when the younger boy was also struck by a car and killed while walking to school.

On the day he was hit, Brighton was walking on a Lane Avenue sidewalk with a younger brother when a dog started chasing the two boys. In an attempt to escape the dog, Brighton ran into the roadway and was struck by a Chevrolet Cruz. The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with the police in their investigation. Unfortunately, the 12-year-old boy lost his life in the pedestrian accident, and exactly three months later, his family was struck by tragedy again when 25-year-old Dalton also fell victim to the same tragic demise.

“Every day is a blessing! Hug your kids and tell them you love them,” Jason Penkacik wrote in a social media post as he announced the death of another son. “This morning my 25 year old son Dalton Penkacik … was killed walking to work in a hit and run. This is the three month anniversary of his 12 year old brother Brighton dying walking [on] his way to school,” he continued. “This has been such a tough year and I appreciate any prayers for our family because they are needed.”

Jason Penkacik shared this photo of Dalton (left) as he announced his death and encouraged others to hug their children. (Photo Credit: Facebook)

Speaking with First Coast News, Jason Penkacik said Dalton had taken on responsibilities when Brighton died to help not only his parents but also his many siblings through their grief. After his untimely death, the couple, who has ten other children, said they spent most of the day explaining why Dalton was not coming home.

“This whole day has kind of felt very surreal,” Jason explained. “I think with Brighton it was more immediate. His brother had witnessed it happen, and so it was more about him, our son. Getting him through it, what he had to go through.”

When speaking to news outlets after Brighton’s death, Shawnee Penkacik said he “was the brightest light in our family of 12 kids. He had abundant joy, and because he walked to school, [he] is gone way too soon.” Jason, who took to social media to announce Brighton’s passing, also called him the family’s “Bright” light.

Jason Penkacik shared this post as he announced Brighton’s death, encouraging others to hug their children, not knowing that he’d lose another child the same way in three months. (Photo Credit: Facebook)

Three months and another senseless tragedy later, Dalton’s death had left the Penkacik family with questions about how someone could hit their son and not stop to help or at least call for help.

“I don’t know what their state of mind was, obviously, but to hit somebody and just keep going and leave them in the street to die,” Jason Penkacik said, speaking of the hit-and-run driver. “That was the hardest thing when we first found out,” the devastated dad added.

“It feels like the world stops and you’re trying to process it,” Jason admitted. “It’s difficult to put into words, and it’s a feeling I wouldn’t put on anybody,” he continued. “You know tomorrow will be there,” he said. “You know you’ll get through it. It’s just kind of hard seeing how that will happen, and that’s where you have to have the faith and trust in God that he’ll get you there.”

As expected, the deaths of their two brothers left the other ten Penkacik siblings quite shaken, making matters all the more difficult for the grief-stricken parents, who recalled what had become their final moments with their son and what it’s been like to try to process such immense tragedy.

“When Brighton passed, [Dalton] was the one that held everything together,” mom Shawnee told WOKV. “We’re seeing our kids who came to the term Brighton was gone to now Dalton is gone, and they have thoughts of who is next who are we going to lose next,” she explained. “Dalton was caring, compassionate, kind, hardworking, a pillar in our family, a great big brother,” Shawnee added before recalling the last thing Dalton said to her: “‘Hey I love you mom, I’ll see you when I get home,’ and I don’t get to see him.”

Three months after Jason Penkacik and his wife Shawnee lost their son Brighton (right) in a pedestrian accident, their son Dalton (left) was killed in a hit-and-run accident. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Unfortunately, instead of seeing Dalton as anticipated, the mourning mother was left with questions, wondering how this could happen again—made worse by the fact that this driver didn’t even stop.

“How could you just hit him and leave? I don’t understand it. I don’t understand humanity,” she said before adding that she too was relying on faith to get her through. “This has impacted our family, and in a way, that’s difficult to recover from but we know we will because we have strong faith and we know God will see us through, but the humanity of it, compassion for people, it feels like nobody had compassion for Dalton.”

Indeed, one can only imagine the absolute grief these parents and their remaining children must feel. If nothing else, it makes you want to squeeze your own loved ones a little bit tighter. Jason and Shawnee Penkacik and their unusually tragic story are a frightening reminder that life is fragile, and at the drop of a hat, everything can change as tragedy strikes—sometimes twice. So, count your blessings, then hug your kids and tell them that you love them—just as Jason suggested—because tomorrow is never promised.