Friends, family gather in Clearwater to remember teens who died in SUV crash

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CLEARWATER — Amoni Walker sat on a swing, her eyes staring at the ground. With a soft smile, she talked about her brother, Dejarae Thomas.

Thomas, 16, was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. His father died in a car crash when he was a baby, so his mom raised him. Next week, he was going to start school at Clearwater High.

His older siblings spoiled him, buying him clothes and giving him rides whenever he asked. They called him "big eyed boy" or "Dee Dee."

"That was our baby," Walker, 24, said. "I just feel like I lost a part of me… My baby brother is not supposed to be dead at 16."

Walker was among dozens of family and friends who gathered Sunday evening outside Clearwater's North Greenwood Recreation Center on a playground to remember three teens who died in a fiery crash that morning.

Three boys dead after fiery crash in stolen SUV, Pinellas sheriff says

Within minutes, dark clouds blanketed the sky, bringing heavy rains. The group ran to the cover of the recreation center's awning.

As friends and family members ducked for shelter, Aja Jenkins, 23, joined a group huddled on the sidewalk. Beneath the pouring rain, they embraced.

Jenkins said Jimmie Goshey had loved football. "He was loving," Jenkins said. "He was kind."

Surrounded by friends, Farrah Purkett, 14, recalled the eight months she spent dating Keontae Brown, who she described as sweet and kind. They attended Oak Grove Middle School together, she said, and they were supposed to go to Clearwater High School this fall.

She said she spoke to him the night before he died, and he told her he wanted to see her.

"He just told me that he loved me," Farrah said.

On the pavement, they set down white candles and wrote the names of the dead boys with wax.

As the rain cleared, they lit large pink, purple and red paper lanterns. The crowd that had stayed watched as the lanterns grew bigger, until they were ready to float.

And then they let go.

         
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