Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Bloomingdale High student, 16, killed in traffic crash

VALRICO — Zachary McCarthy sang so much that sometimes his parents would have to tell him to stop.

The 16-year-old Bloomingdale High School student sang everywhere — at home, in his car, at school.

"He was always walking around singing," his grandfather, Bill McCarthy, said.

On Wednesday night, that came to an end. Zach McCarthy died from injuries he received when his car hit a tree a few blocks from his Valrico home.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Zach McCarthy was heading west near Natures Way and Golf Meadow boulevards about 9:30 p.m. when, for unknown reasons, he lost control of the car, spun out and slammed into a tree.

He was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died, deputies said. Michaela Faessler, 15, a passenger, was not hurt.

Speed may have been a factor, his father, Doug McCarthy, said, but investigators have not yet determined an exact cause. Another group of friends was in a car nearby, his father said.

A new driver, Zach McCarthy was a straight-A student at Bloomingdale, his mother, Jean McCarthy said. He played trumpet in the band and was a member of the school's chorus group, the Ambassadors.

Briana Beauzile, 16, met Zach McCarthy in band class about three years ago. They've been friends ever since.

"He always had a smile on his face, and he cared about other people a lot more than himself," Beauzile said. "He always looked at the positive side of life."

On Thursday morning, Beauzile left a memento in memory of her friend at the base of the tree where the crash occurred. A collection of lit candles and flowers sitting among shards of glass grew as the day went on.

More than 250 students, friends, family and church members gathered Thursday night for a prayer service at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Riverview. Afterward, about 50 people made their way to the tree where the car had crashed to a hold a candlelight vigil.

Emily Foos, 15, a Newsome High School sophomore, was text messaging with Zach until about 10 minutes before the crash. At 9:19 p.m. Wednesday, the teen asked Foos what she was doing.

"He never had any bad moments," Foos said. "He was the nicest kid."

Heather Fagan, 18, a senior at Bloomingdale High, cried as she thought about how Zach McCarthy wouldn't be in her first-period math class when they returned to school Monday.

"He would just go out of his way to help and to make people smile," she said through tears outside the church Thursday night.

Carly Wilkinson's father told her about Zach McCarthy's fatal crash Wednesday night. She had last seen the kid who loved to sing with her brother at church on Sunday. They didn't speak — she assumed there would be more time.

"He was always smiling and that smile was contagious," Wilkinson, 17, a Bloomingdale senior said.

From 5 p.m. to late Thursday, counselors were seeing more than 150 teens at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Valrico, said Matthew Irwin, the church's high school and youth counselor.

"Really, we were just listening," Irwin said. "We opened our youth house and many of them are at the very beginning stage of grieving. They are just in shock."

Zach McCarthy spent a large part of Wednesday with his father. It happened to be their monthly father-son bonding time, and the two went to dinner and shopping.

On Thursday, his father recalled with a smile the shy boy his outgoing son used to be.

"He was very shy when he was young, very nervous on stage," Doug McCarthy said.

But he had grown to love it, Doug McCarthy said, and hoped to make music his future.

A night out with friends Wednesday changed that.

"He was just on his way to get ice cream," his father said.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.


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