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Off-road guru had knack for helping others

  • Updated

Jason Paul Payne seemingly knew everything there is to know about off-road vehicles and electronics.

But he might have been best at helping out others.

"He would do anything for you," said Kyle Crowley, a friend of Payne's.

Payne, 25, of Bakersfield, drowned at Lake Tahoe on Aug. 23.

His father, Ken Payne, said he knew his son was very knowledgeable about vehicles, but he didn't realize how many other people also knew it. Jason Payne went by the name "Willyswanter" online and dispensed advice and information about off-roading to anyone who asked.

After his son's death, Ken Payne began receiving e-mails from people across the country and even other countries about how Payne answered their questions about any off-roading problem they encountered. Ken Payne was stunned by the response.

"We knew he liked building trucks and off-roading, but he was a quiet, humble type of guy," he said.

Payne graduated from Garces Memorial High School in 2000 and attended Bakersfield College with a focus on industrial technology. Ken Payne said his son was always the go-to guy whenever someone in the family had a question.

Most recently employed at Croad Electric in Bakersfield, Payne excelled at welding and electrical work. He often gave friends advice on how to outfit their off-road vehicles.

Geoffrey Graham, who, like Crowley, met Payne online, said he misses discussing off-roading with Jason and the friendship he provided. His death was devastating, Graham said.

"That day was nothing but sitting at the computer and crying," Graham said.

Bakersfield resident Esteban Solano, another friend, said Payne had a knack for explaining detailed equipment online and how to build different parts. He could provide in-depth information on whatever off-roading question someone had.

Solano remembers days spent driving through the hills at Hart Park and how Payne even befriended Solano's children. His death has hit the children hard, too.

Payne was born Aug. 2, 1982, and by the time he was 11 he had his life planned out, Ken Payne said. He sometimes told his father that he didn't expect to live past 30, and he spent his days always on the move, as if he didn't have time to rest.

"We were lucky to have him for 25 years," Ken Payne said.

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