Hudson teen dies in an ATV accident

The 18-year-old wasn't wearing a helmet when his four-wheeler rolled and hit a pole.

Published May 30, 2007

HUDSON - Ed Wilke heard the distinct roar of his twin brother's ATV, then saw him ride by.

Ed felt his cell phone vibrate 20 minutes later. A voice on the other end shared the bad news: There had been an accident, and Jon was being flown to Bayfront Medical Center.

Ed rushed to his brother's side.

"I basically saw him before they even cleaned him up," Ed Wilke said. "They said he basically had no chance of living. He basically was found on the scene dead."

Jon Wilke died Sunday, four days after his four-wheeler rolled several times and crashed into a cement pole, his brother said.

He wasn't wearing a helmet.

"Lately he started to pick up not wearing a helmet to be with his friends and not be out of the loop," Ed Wilke said. "Normally, he wears everything."

Jon, 18, was one of four siblings. He was entering his senior year at Hudson High School, was an avid swimmer and baseball player, and wanted to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute.

Jon spent the past few years building bikes and taking them apart. He could identify problems with motorcycles and took classes to learn about the inner workings of cars.

The twins have been riding motorized dirt bikes for several years and recently got a pair of four-wheelers.

"He wanted to be a big-time mechanic," Ed Wilke said. "He wanted to get a big house for him and his friends."

Jon will be remembered as a successful swimmer and a leader at Hudson's pool.

Along with Ed, he teamed with Chris Pearce and Andy Demopoulos in the 200- and 400-meter freestyle relays. He swam the third leg.

The four shared a camaraderie that grew strong through practice, competition and friendship.

"Everyone was always trying to be like him," Demopoulos said. "He was one of the best. He was dedicated."

They almost broke a school record, coming within 0.001 seconds in the 400-meter relay, Hudson coach Julie Heise said.

He also won the 100-meter butterfly at the Sunshine Athletic Conference meet this past season, landing him on the conference's first team.

Pearce said he didn't realize the severity of the accident when he first heard about it and went on with plans to attend a NASCAR race in North Carolina. Updates from Hudson coach Julie Heise made Pearce more concerned about Jon, whom he had known since they played Little League together.

He never got to say goodbye.

"I found out he passed away," Pearce said. "I pretty much fell apart."

Though Jon never regained consciousness, his mother, Margaret, stayed with him until the end.

Hudson's swim team was scheduled to meet Tuesday night for a workout, and to try and begin healing.

The viewing will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Dobies Funeral Home, 9944 Hudson Ave. The funeral will be at 7 that night.

"When you're losing your best swimmer, you're not just losing a great swimmer," Heise said. "You're losing a son, a best friend, a leader. You just have to pick yourselves up and try to get back to work."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or 727 580-5315.