For John Dugan, last Friday started out like any other Christmas Eve. He had a ham in the oven and planned to pop in at a neighbor’s party for a quick hello and some well-wishes.
For his family, it ended with tragedy, grief, and anger. Dugan, 65, was killed just after 5 p.m. on the stretch of State Road in front of his house in Croydon when the driver of a pickup truck struck him as he and his fiancée were crossing the street, according to police in Bristol Township.
The Army veteran was just steps from his front door when he stumbled and fell, his daughter Jamie Santos said. He was having issues with his ankles and feet due to complications from diabetes, Santos said. The truck was speeding so quickly that Dugan’s fiancée, Tina Mazzatenta, barely had time to react. The vehicle, meanwhile, never slowed.
“I am distraught, I’m hurt, and I’m numb,” Santos said in an interview this week. “I was completely ripped apart that day.”
Now, Dugan’s family is pleading for information, asking anyone who may have witnessed the fatal hit-and-run to come forward.
Investigators believe the truck that hit Dugan was a cherry-red Chevrolet Silverado with black rims — glimpses of it were captured by a surveillance camera at a Sunoco not far from where Dugan was struck. Aside from that description, there is little information available.
But Santos is confident the driver will be brought to justice. Croydon is a small, tight-knit area, she said, and someone knows who is responsible.
“If you know something, speak out, because you will be found,” she said. “And anybody who knows something, speak up, because it will haunt you for the rest of your life that you knew somebody did this and changed a family’s lives forever.”
While waiting for answers, Dugan’s family is reflecting on the memories of a man who loved fishing and boating and who always put his family first.
After a decades-long career as a union roofer, Dugan was forced to retire after he was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer, Santos said. But after a harrowing surgery and four-month recovery, Dugan’s illness was in remission.
He lived life more slowly and deliberately after that, Santos said, spending more time with his three children and seven grandchildren. The little ones reveled at watching movies with their grandpa, or taking trips with him, memories they are clinging to as they try to process his sudden absence from their lives.
“As a grandfather, he never missed a beat,” Santos said. “My father was a family man, through and through. He cared about his kids more than anything in the world.”
Dugan’s death has been especially hard on Santos’ daughter, Oakleigh, who turned 3 last Friday, a Christmas week birthday that usually makes the holiday even more special.
But this year, it was a grim reminder of what had been taken from Dugan’s family just hours earlier. In the days since, Santos said, she grips her children’s hands tighter whenever they cross the street, pausing much longer than she’s used to.
“All I’m left with are question marks,” she said. “It just goes to show you that there are some really evil people in this world.”
The family is planning a memorial service for Dugan at Molden Funeral Chapel, 133 Otter St., Bristol, on Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m. All are welcome, Santos said, as long as they come bearing their favorite memory of her father.
Anyone with information about Dugan’s death is asked to call Bristol Township Police Officer Kenneth Margerum at 267-812-2991.