RACINE — The Racine Department of Public Works recycling truck driver involved in an Oct. 28 crash has died, adding another tragic loss for the city.
The morning of the crash, David “Dee” Shelton acted as he always does, his wife Nikki Shelton said. The two knew each other since middle school. Shelton woke up and joked with Nikki before heading off to work.
About an hour later, Nikki received a call that she had to go to the hospital.
Shelton died on Oct. 30. He was 43.
Alderman John Tate II, Shelton’s cousin, announced his passing during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, asking the council to keep the family in their thoughts.
Shelton’s visitation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at Greater Mount Eagle Baptist Church, 929 State St., Racine, with the funeral following at 11 a.m.
“To allow DPW employees to attend their colleague’s funeral, Friday solid waste and recycling collection will begin at 5 a.m. Residents on Friday collection routes are asked to please have their carts out by 5 a.m. to assist our hardworking and grieving Public Works employees,” the city said in a statement.
“David R. Shelton was a valued member of the DPW team since 2013, and we are all grieving his death. We send our most sincere condolences to Shelton’s family and to his colleagues in the Public Works Department who are reeling from this unexpected loss,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason said in a statement Wednesday.
The crash happened a little before 8 a.m. Oct. 28 in the 2400 block of Shoop Street north of Layard Avenue.
Shelton was driving a recycling truck, turned a corner, veered left, went up onto a curb and came to rest against a tree, John Rooney, the city’s DPW commissioner, previously said. The truck was the only vehicle involved, with no other vehicles struck or property damage.
Rooney said at the time that the truck Shelton was operating was about 2 years old, so he did not believe equipment failure was the likely cause.
“There are no witnesses to the accident, so we really don’t know what happened,” he said. “We have no idea, and it would only be speculation if we were to say what happened.”
Autopsy results showed that Shelton sustained injuries to his head after he was tossed or fell from the cab of the truck.
On Wednesday, Racine Police Sgt. Adam Malacara said there was no update to the investigation.
Nikki said not knowing what led to the crash is almost the hardest part. The day before the crash, they went shopping, went out to eat and went to a movie.
“The next morning, everything was fine,” Nikki said. She said she has no idea what led to the crash. Now, she is left with memories of Shelton.
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Met in middle school
Nikki said the two met when they were 13 at a middle school track meet. She went to McKinley Middle School and Shelton went to Starbuck Middle School. Later, Shelton moved to Atlanta, but they stayed in touch.
In 2007, Nikki said Shelton called her out of the blue and they talked for hours. “We became best friends,” Nikki said. The two started dating in 2011 and were married on Sept. 2, 2017.
Shelton also leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter in Mississippi, as well as Nikki’s two children, ages 24 and 20, who they considered to be Shelton’s “bonus children.”
“He was a pure family man,” Nikki said. “He loved family and loved Florida State,” she also added.
Shelton’s sister, Alicia Finley, 48, said that Shelton used to talk to her almost daily. Her dogs recently had puppies and he would ask, “How are my nieces and nephews?”
He was looking forward to going home to the Atlanta area for Thanksgiving and seeing them, she said. “I wish you could have known him,” she said. “Even if I try to tell you about him, I cannot … He was an awesome, awesome person.”
Second DPW death
“It’s going to be sad not seeing his face around here,” said Randy Eshmann, one of Shelton’s supervisors. “He was a happy guy.”
Eshmann remembers Shelton as a good employee, strong believer in his faith and well-liked. He participated in the joking and teasing around the department and some of the guys went to him for fashion advice.
“A lot of people went to him for him to hook them up with dress clothes, suits,” said Eshmann.
He’s grateful that the department and the city made arrangements so DPW employees could attend Shelton’s funeral on Friday. “We want to make it so all the employees are at least able to go down there, pay their respects and say their goodbyes,” he said.
Shelton is the second loss the department has faced in recent years. This December is the third anniversary of the accident that killed Pastor Mark Gates.
Gates was killed Dec. 14, 2016, while he was working as a city refuse collector in the 4400 block of Washington Avenue. While Gates was loading a recycling bin into the back of a truck, a Ford Mustang hit and pinned him to the truck.
The Department of Park, Recreation and Cultural Services dedicated a courtyard in West Park, 1000 Park Ave., to Gates in August.
“This is hard,” said Eshmann. “But we’re going to get through it.”
Eshmann said after Shelton’s family claims what they want from his locker, the employees plan to lock it permanently and put up a photo of Shelton as a memorial.
The city also endured the loss earlier this year of Police Officer John Hetland, who was killed while intervening in a June 17 robbery at Teezers Bar & Grill on Lathrop Avenue.