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Day of family celebration ends in tragedy in Tampa

TAMPA -— It was a day meant for celebration.

Webster and Nancy Farns­worth drove to Clearwater on Friday morning for breakfast with their son, his pregnant wife and their granddaughter, Kaylee, who were visiting from Tallahassee. All morning, the grandparents doted on 3-year-old Kaylee, cuddling with her at the table. They gushed about getting to meet their new grandson in December.

Then the family gathering split up for the drive back to Tampa. Grandma and Grandpa took Kaylee with them in the minivan to run an errand. The others were to meet at their house. They were having a baby shower Saturday, so there was a lot to discuss.

But Webster and Nancy Farns­worth never made it to their West Tampa home. On their way to Publix about 3 p.m. Friday, a pickup truck driver ran a red light and crashed into the side of their van at the intersection of Habana Avenue and Hillsborough Avenue, killing the couple on impact, according to a Tampa police statement. Young Kaylee was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where is she recovering.

The truck driver, Eric McNeil, had minor injuries. He passed out while driving — the reason isn't yet known, police said, adding that he hit two street signs before striking the Farnsworths' van. Three other vehicles were involved in the crash, but no one else was injured. No charges had been filed Saturday.

At the hospital Saturday, Adam Farnsworth, 27, his wife, Crystal, and his brother, Aaron, 23, struggled to process the events of Friday afternoon. Webster, 63, and Nancy, 54, loved without condition and sacrificed without complaint, their sons said.

"We never went a moment in our lives without feeling loved by our parents," Adam Farns­worth said. "My dad was a hard worker who stood by us every step of the way. My mom was compassionate, patient and kind. She would do anything for anybody."

Webster and Nancy met in Gainesville more than 30 years ago, and moved to Tampa when they married. Nancy was a math teacher at H.B. Plant High School. Webster worked in management for a variety of tile distribution companies. The couple loved biking and traveling. They took trips to the mountains and swam with dolphins.

Both were respected by friends and colleagues, their sons said.

"She came in very early in the morning, helped teachers out and always had her door open in the afternoon tutoring students," said Rob Nelson, Plant High principal. "This is a devastating loss."

Students and faculty will have the opportunity to meet with counselors this week, Nelson said.

For family left behind, only the promise of Kaylee's smile helps ease the pain of the loss. The little girl's prognosis is good, her father said.

"I have no doubt that they are going to live forever in Kaylee," Aaron Farnsworth said. "The love that they poured out onto her, it will live on."

Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or swhitman@sptimes.com. Times staff writer Shelley Rossetter and researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Day of family celebration ends in tragedy in Tampa 10/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 22, 2011 9:33pm]
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