LANCASTER – Candles, flowers and handwritten notes marked the spot where Beau Josh Owen Fluker, 26, and Jeffrey Gilstrap, 23 lost their lives in a car crash early Sunday morning.
A note with pictures of both men read:
“R.I.P. Beau Fluker & Jeffrey. You are at a better place now.”
Excerpts from a full page, handwritten letter to Jeffrey Gilstrap read:
“I was homeless and you took me in, fed me, gave me hope and advice… You had strength and heart that very few people ever got to witness… In many ways, you were the bravest of us all.”
The makeshift memorial was set up on the corner of 20th Street West and Avenue J in Lancaster, the spot where both men died at the scene of a collision, which took place about 2:36 a.m. Sunday.
Fluker and Gilstrap were traveling east on Avenue J when their vehicle collided at the intersection with a second vehicle traveling north on 20th street west, according to Lt. Richard Daniels of the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station.
The driver of the second vehicle, Tommie Lee Cole, 24, sustained minor injuries and was arrested for Felony DUI, according to Daniels.
Fluker and Gilstrap were employees at the Walmart on Valley Central Way and had been carpooling home from a late night shift, said Zone Merchandise Supervisor Darryl Theus.
“Jeff got off at 1 a.m., and Beau got off at 2 a.m., so Jeff had to wait for Beau to get off to get a ride home,” said Theus.
Theus said he heard about the crash hours after it happened when the store’s Overnight Manager called him at home to give him the news.
“It was very hard to accept and I went to the scene just to get some closure,” he said. “It is very hard on all of us because they were part of our Walmart family.”
Theus said several Walmart associates joined friends and family of both men for a candlelight vigil at the crash site Sunday evening.
“There was a crowd of well over 100 people,” Theus said.
“They said prayers for Beau and Jeff and their families and said a prayer for the other driver as well,” said Bridgette Ford, a close friend of Fluker’s family. “Everyone spoke about some kind of experience they had with both of them. One manager talked about how Beau had baked a cake and said it was his mother’s recipe, and I said ‘yeah, that’s Beau!’”
Mourning continued for several Walmart associates Monday.
“It was a very difficult day to get through,” said Shift Manager Clarence Winn. “I had to hold meetings and talk to associates all throughout the day… some of them were really torn and actually had to go home.”
Winn said the employees came up with several ways to remember Fluker and Gilstrap. They created a board to post pictures, cards, and notes in memory of the two men and created blue ribbons (the symbol of drunk driving) and candy bags to be traded for donations to raise money for the men’s families, Winn said. Walmart associates have planned taco and bake sales as fundraisers for the families, as well, said Winn.
“Beau and Jeffrey both were very good associates, and they had a lot of friends and a lot of coworkers that really thought highly of them,” said Winn. “The associates came up with all these ideas themselves because they wanted to pay tribute.”
Beau Fluker’s older sister, Ki Burke, said she felt blessed by the outpouring of support her family has received since the accident.
“We are very appreciative of everything they’re doing at Walmart, from the managers to the sales associates, we are truly blessed by them,” Burke said. “Even the customers have come up to me and spoke to me about Beau.”
“Beau was a beautiful person, he was very forgiving, he loved everyone and he was the most dedicated family member and brother that anyone could have,” Burke continued. “I pray for the other driver.”
“It’s really a tragic incident that happened,” said Winn. “I think we need to get the emphasis back on drunk driving and the prevention of drunk driving because we lost two very great people because of it.”
The driver of the second vehicle involved in Sunday’s collision, Tommie Lee Cole, 24, was in custody at the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles as of 8:30 p.m., Monday, according to the Inmate Information System.
Cole is being held on $100,000 bail and is due in court at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Antelope Valley Courthouse.