Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two Wesley Chapel teens made their mark

WESLEY CHAPEL — Kellie Sischo saw the sign on the door and started crying. She takes her children to Kids 'R' Kids day care in Wesley Chapel and, like the nearly 200 other parents whose children stay there, Sischo knew Tabatha well.

The sign didn't say what happened, it just said:

Tabatha Pastrana

3/13/1990 — 5/5/2008

You always will be part of Kids 'R' Kids Family

Tabatha, 18, died Monday afternoon along with her friend, Kristin Gaskin, 17, when their car flipped on Interstate 75, just north of State Road 54.

Both girls were seniors at Wesley Chapel High School, a month away from graduation.

Their principal, Andy Frelick, said the two were inseparable, eating lunch together and hanging out. There are 500 students in their senior class, but they stood out and were well-known and liked. A crisis team at the school Tuesday met with a steady flow of grieving students who might otherwise have been excited about their prom Saturday.

Wesley Chapel High has waded through so much grief in these past few years. Frelick said the school has lost at least 17 students to tragedy since he became principal in 1999. In August, the senior class also lost Matthew Laidley to a car crash. The driver, Adam Sanford, and another passenger, Katelin Kaiser, also seniors, suffered severe injuries.

Frelick has welcomed safety classes at the school to hammer reality into his students' heads. He will have another one Friday.

"I feel like Sisyphus, pushing that rock up," he said.

Frelick said many students came to him Tuesday with a feeling that the school is cursed.

"Why us?" they asked.

Tabatha's family lives in Wesley Chapel and Kristin's family lives in San Antonio. Both girls had jobs and took classes online, so they were permitted to leave school earlier than most students. Tabatha was driving her 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse north on the interstate at 1 p.m. when she lost control. The car slid off on the east shoulder and hit some trees before flipping and coming to a rest on its roof. The Florida Highway Patrol, which still is investigating the crash, has released few details.

Kristin worked at Tijuana Flats on State Road 56 and planned to attend Pasco Hernando Community College this fall and then transfer to a university. She wanted to be a psychologist. Tabatha worked at Kids 'R' Kids until a few months ago, when she took some time off to focus on school and prepare for college. She still baby-sat most evenings and she often showed up at Kids 'R' Kids to say "hello."

"She made people smile without even trying," said Sischo, as she sat in the day care's lobby.

Owner Anitha Thomas said parents had been crying all day.

Tabatha first applied for a job there when she was 16, but was too young. Staffers have to be 17. So, the day before her 17th birthday, Tabatha showed up again at the day care and said, "I'm turning 17. When can I start?"

Thomas said she was impressed by Tabatha's energy and gumption. Tabatha loved children, and they loved her.

"She had a good heart," Thomas said. "And a good spirit."

Thomas sent a letter home to parents, but Tuesday afternoon was still dreading breaking the news to her 9-year-old daughter, Amy, who adored Tabatha.

Frelick also sent a letter home with students, alerting them to the tragedy and letting them know that the school is there to help.

The girls will still graduate. Their families will receive the diplomas. Tabatha's family was not available on Tuesday. A day earlier, her sister, Syeeta, 15, said the two of them went bowling Sunday with their brother, Nathaniel, 16. Syeeta said Tabatha planned on going to college in Miami and working on a career in journalism. Her colleagues at the day care said she had been awarded a full scholarship to the University of Miami.

At Kristin's house, her mother, father and sister were still in shock from the accident. They had all just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas on Friday.

They said Kristin was a homebody until recently, when she began to feel her independence. Her curfew was midnight and she left the house around 7 a.m., for school and work. She was busy and so excited about graduation.

Kristin and her sister Heather, 22, a pharmacy student at PHCC, both lived at home with their parents and planned on getting an apartment nearby.

When her mom, Becky Gaskin, would tell her to be careful and to not ride in cars with other kids, Kristin kept telling her mom to ease up, that she's nearly 18.

"Mom, you hold me too tight," she'd say. "When are you going to let go?"

And at their kitchen table Tuesday, her mother sobbed and said, "Never, Kristin, never.

"I'll hold you tight for the rest of my life."

Erin Sullivan can be reached at or (813) 909-4609.

>>Fast facts

Want to help?

Both places of employment for the girls are collecting money to help their families with burial costs. Funeral services have not been completed. To send money to Tabatha's family, call Kids 'R' Kids at (813) 994-4525 or send an e-mail to for information on how to do so. You also could stop by the daycare center at 1540 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel. To donate to Kristin's family, call Tijuana Flats at (813) 994-9010 or stop by the restaurant at 27709 State Road 56, Wesley Chapel.

Two Wesley Chapel teens made their mark 05/06/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2008 12:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  2. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]