Man departing for holiday trip at Atlanta airport fatally struck by Uber driver

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

It was clear Randal Espey was excited about visiting the Grand Canyon over the Memorial Day weekend.

“‘Hop out, babe! It’s time to go!’” he exclaimed as they arrived at busy Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport unusually early for their Saturday flight, his wife Piper Espey told Channel 2 Action News.

Moments later, he was fatally struck by a speeding SUV.

“We’re never early to the airport, but we were that day,” she said.

Atlanta police arrested an Uber driver, Mesfin Abebe, and charged him with misdemeanor homicide by vehicle and failure to yield the right of way at a crosswalk.

Airport traffic is already heavy on most days, but it was especially busy over the weekend with holiday travelers fumbling to get their luggage quickly unloaded so everyone could get to their gates on time. It was amid that noon rush that the sound of an accelerating vehicle caught Piper Espey’s attention.

“My husband (had) just stepped out of the car and closed his door, and I screamed his name and he looked up and that was it,” she told Channel 2.

Randal Espey was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Suwanee father of three was 62 years old.

Abebe, 39, was dropping off a passenger when he stepped out of his Chevrolet Suburban before noticing the vehicle was still in drive and rolling forward, according to a police report. He jumped back inside in an attempt to stop it, but instead of pressing the brakes, he accidentally hit the gas pedal, causing a “violent forward motion.”

The vehicle then hit Randal Espey and continued moving, causing damage to two other vehicles, the report states.

Uber said it has removed Abebe from its platform and is ready to assist police in the investigation.

“Our hearts are heavy with the news of this tragic incident, and we’re keeping Mr. Espey’s loved ones in our thoughts,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Randal Espey had just celebrated the last of his three children getting married, Channel 2 reported. He was looking forward to becoming a grandfather someday.

“Nothing can prepare you for anything like that,” Piper Espey told the station through tears. “It’s important to — people, please understand the responsibility behind a car and how quickly and completely it changes a family’s world.”