A day after Vernon “Johnny” Nagles was killed in a collision with a train, friends are mourning and remembering the county worker as someone who would “give you the shirt off his back.”

Nagles died on the job late Wednesday afternoon after the heavy machinery he was driving crossed the railroad tracks and was struck by a Norfolk Southern train. Witnesses said it appeared Nagles just didn’t hear the train or its whistle as it was coming down the line just north of Tifton. Nagles was killed instantly.

The 62-year-old Chula man was reportedly close to retiring from service with the county. He had previously been a firefighter before switching careers.

“He was definitely the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back in the freezing cold if you needed it,” Fire Capt. Ernest Dove said. Nagles was a firefighter when Dove first started fighting fires many years ago.

Dove recalls that one of the first house fire calls he went out on could have ended in catastrophe if it wasn’t for Nagles’ looking out for him.

“I was in the house and he grabbed me just before a chimney fell,” Dove said.

“He never said anything else about it. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Nagles is survived by a longtime companion, Brittie Holloway Jackson of Chula, a daughter, seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Funeral services are scheduled for 4 p.m. today at Bowen-Donaldson Home for funerals.

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