A petty officer and his husband died after a motorcycle accident in South Carolina on Oct. 30, officials have confirmed.
Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class Justice A. Hartley, 24, was on the back of a 2017 Yamaha motorcycle being driven by his husband, 31-year-old Guillermo Valeri, on South Carolina Highway 41 in Mount Pleasant, a Charleston suburb, according to the Navy and Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
They were going south on 41 at about 1:15 p.m. when they passed three vehicles heading northbound, according to a sheriff’s office report.
The rear northbound vehicle was driving too fast for conditions and struck the car in front of it, which in turn struck the lead car and then lurched into the southbound lanes, striking Valeri’s motorcycle and ejecting both of them, according to the sheriff’s office.
Hartley was transported to an area hospital and died on Nov. 4, according to the report, while Valeri died at the scene.
Sheriff’s office officials said the investigation into the accident remains ongoing, but the report indicates that the driver of the rear vehicle that struck the vehicle which ultimately struck Hartley and Valeri was cited for driving too fast for conditions.
Hartley met his husband while stationed in Charleston for nuclear school, according to his mother, Monica Hartley.
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He reported to the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in February, his first assignment out of school, according to Navy service records.
Hartley was on leave at the time of the accident, according to Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Force Atlantic.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sailor’s family and loved ones during this tragic and difficult time,” she said.
Hartley grew up in Alabama and “was always a very energetic and fun kid,” Monica Hartley said in a statement to Navy Times. “His life was short, but full.”
Hartley and Valeri met a few years ago and were very happy, she said.
“Justice was a family guy, he kept in contact with his brothers after he left home and they always looked forward to hearing his stories about being on ship, or going out on the town or just spending time in the mountains with his husband,” Monica Hartley said.
In addition to loving the outdoors, Hartley was an entrepreneur who started EarthWish, an online company that sold handmade soaps.
Hartley also was an advocate for Doctors Without Borders, Monica Hartley recalled.
“From our family to his Navy family, it has been a hard time, but without suffering, Justice was called home,” she said. “He will be greatly missed, but the memories he gave us all will be cherished throughout a lifetime.”
About Geoff Ziezulewicz
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.