ZEPHYRHILLS — Brandon Carvalho, a popular Zephyrhills High School senior and basketball player, died in a car crash outside Lakeland Monday evening.
He was 17.
Carvalho "just got done with basketball practice," principal Steve Van Gorden said. "He was going to see his mother."
The crash happened about 7 p.m. Monday, as Carvalho was driving south on U.S. 98. His Saturn sedan swerved into oncoming traffic "for unknown reasons," colliding head-on with a Hyundai driven by 21-year-old Lauren Hindman, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
The impact sent both cars spinning, with the Saturn ending up on the east shoulder, and the Hyundai stopping in the southbound lane.
Carvalho, who was not wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene, Polk authorities said. Hindman, of Howey in the Hills, was wearing a seatbelt and suffered serious injuries. She was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where she was in stable condition Tuesday.
The road was closed until 12:30 a.m. Tuesday as traffic homicide deputies investigated the crash. But word of the accident filtered back to Zephyrhills by 9 p.m., Van Gorden said. Many friends began gathering to mourn into the night.
A crisis team greeted the tight-knit school community as students arrived for classes Tuesday morning.
"It was a tough day," Van Gorden said. "It was very somber around here."
Carvalho, a peer adviser in the school's student services department, was well respected and liked, his principal said.
"He was a phenomenal student," he said. "He was such a personable young man. He had a very bright future."
The teen's father, Richard Carvalho, spent Tuesday dealing with the shock and grief of his son's death. He needed more time to reflect on his son's life, he said. But he said playing on the school basketball team had been Brandon Carvalho's dream.
"He really enjoyed being on the team," said Richard Carvalho.
Brandon Carvalho is survived by his mother, Sherri Peeples; his father, Richard Carvalho; a sister, Tammy Hochstetler; his maternal grandparents, Norman and Paula Peeples, and several aunts, uncles and cousins. He was a member of Midway Baptist Church in Lakeland, and also a member of the Special Olympics Club at Zephyrhills High.
Whitfield Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.