Family speaks out after driver strikes, kills man at Atlanta airport

Photo of 62-year-old Randal Espey
Photo of 62-year-old Randal Espey(Family submitted photo)
Published: May. 29, 2023 at 11:22 PM EDT|Updated: May. 30, 2023 at 6:04 AM EDT
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SUWANEE, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A Suwanee family is mourning the death of 62-year-old Randal Espey who was struck by a car and killed Saturday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

On Memorial Day, the family spoke exclusively to Atlanta News First following the arrest of Mesfin Abebe, who is charged with homicide by vehicle and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Espey and his wife Piper were at the airport when their trip turned deadly in the blink of an eye.

Piper said her husband had just stepped out of the car, closed his door, and was about to walk to the back of the car to unload their luggage when he was hit.

“His last words to me were, ‘How about it babe? It’s time to go!’ recalled Piper Espey. “And so, I grabbed my driver’s license, and I hopped out of the car, and then I turned and looked, and that’s when I saw the vehicle. I just yelled his name, and he looked up, and that was the end of him.”

Photo of 62-year-old Randal Espey
Photo of 62-year-old Randal Espey(Family submitted photo)

Police said he was struck by the SUV on the Lower South Roadway at the airport.

“He was not a pedestrian,” Espey’s widow said. “He was in a safe zone and where he should’ve been to start to walk to the back of the car. Everything happened so fast, but my husband didn’t have a chance. He didn’t have a chance to survive,” she said.

RELATED: Police arrest man after pedestrian killed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport

The couple had been married for more than 20 years.

“He is my treasure,” Espey said. “He loved bigger than life. He treasured the kids and me. He was the one behind the scenes making everything happen. Just a beautiful spirit. Doesn’t even explain him. He truly was our world. We just had a lot of plans, and we were marking off some of the national park.”

“He’s just always supported me and my art and anything I’ve ever done and the kids,” his widow said. “He was just our world. Our world is gone in a couple of seconds.”

Espey’s son echoed the same sentiments.

“He was an amazing father to me and my siblings. I think all my friends kind of saw him as an uncle,” said Grayson Middlebrooks, Espey’s son. “He was always larger than life and loved hosting. He was always coaching sports, and sports teams, being involved in the community, and having fun with myself and my friends. He was always so good to us and so loving to be around.”

Espey was approaching his retirement years, his family said.

“We were so excited,” said his son. “My two siblings and I were all recently married, and we were so excited to have him as a grandfather. He was taken way too soon. It’s really tragic, but we know for whatever reason, it was his time. He’s with Jesus. He was a man of God, and we’re confident in that, and that brings us comfort and peace.”

The family is now sending an urgent message to all drivers.

“Urge everyone to understand the responsibility they have when they’re behind the wheel of a car, a heavy machine, and how quickly it could impact others around them,” Middlebrooks said. “Slow down and be attentive.”

Photo of 62-year-old Randal Espey
Photo of 62-year-old Randal Espey(Family submitted photo)

Right now, the family is holding on to their faith to get them by.

“Life is so fragile. Just prayers. Our hearts are truly shattered, but we are leaning on our faith,” Piper Espey said. “We do have a lot of hope that we will see him again.”