A 25-year-old Bakersfield native and former soldier returned from two tours of duty in Afghanistan only to be killed Wednesday when a car hit him while he was crossing the street at a construction site.
James Chvala Jr. was working with a fiber optic line crew laying cable at Avenue 9 and Road 35 in Madera County when the accident occurred about 7 a.m. Wednesday, said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Donnelly.
The crew was digging cable trenches, and Chvala was trying to cross from one side of Avenue 9 to the other after retrieving a shovel when he was hit by a charcoal gray Lexus driven by a Clovis woman, Donnelly said.
The woman told police that initially Chvala hesitated and it seemed he was going to turn back, but he proceeded to cross into the path of the car and she was unable to stop in time after slamming on the breaks, Donnelly said.
Chvala was pronounced dead at the scene.
There was no indication of alcohol or drug use and no criminal charges have been filed against the driver, but the accident is still under investigation, Donnelly said.
"At this point it just looks like he didn't see the car coming," he said.
Chvala was a 2006 Bakersfield High School graduate who ran for the school's track team, including a 4x400-meter relay team that won the Valley Championship in that event four years in a row.
As a freshman, he was part of a 4x4 relay team that placed second at the California State Track and Field meet in 2003.
Bakersfield High School Principal David Reese released a statement.
"Jimmy Chvala epitomized the youthful exuberance of the BHS student," he said. "Always a smile, always friendly and always willing to lend a hand. He was a young man who enjoyed life and enjoyed people.
"We are saddened by his passing and our condolences go out to his parents, sisters, family and friends. Remember him as you share your smile and joy of life as he did."
His father, also named James Chvala, is a longtime freshman football coach at BHS.