Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

Boy, 12, is with friends when tragedy strikes

CLEARWATER — Kevin Vasquez remembers seeing the truck braking 20 feet before it hit his best friend, Giovanni Tejamanil.

"Gio was the last in the group to cross the road," said Kevin, 15. "He had an ice cream cone in his hand."

After the truck slammed into the 12-year-old boy, Kevin rushed to Tejamanil's side.

"He still had a pulse," Kevin said. "His brother was telling him to breathe, but he was so stiff."

The boy's brother, Christian Tejamanil, tried desperately to save him.

"I picked him up from the road, the cars were coming fast and I was scared, I picked him up with my two hands and gave him CPR," Christian Tejamanil said.

Giovanni, suffering from massive head and internal injuries, was taken by ambulance to Morton Plant Hospital. He later was flown to All Children's Hospital, where he died about 3 a.m. Sunday.

It was a tragic end to an afternoon of fun for the boy and his friends.

Police say the children had just left Celebration Station shortly after it closed at 11 p.m. Saturday, when he ran in front of the red 2005 Ford truck.

The children, who police say were not supervised, live across the street at Southern Comfort Mobile Home Park.

Kevin said Giovanni was the last of seven children to cross the dangerous and recently modified section of U.S. 19 to get back to the park.

"We tell the kids not to go near U.S. 19," Giovanni's uncle, Pascual Tejamanil, said. "He knows he can't go on U.S. 19. It is like a river. If you don't know how to swim in it, you are gone."

Police say there is no indication that the truck's driver, 41-year-old Robert H. Doan of Orlando, was speeding at the time the child ran in front of him, or that alcohol was a factor in the crash. Police are not expected to file charges against him.

A manager with Celebration Station, which is known for its video games, pizza and go-carts, said Sunday morning that a log book officials there keep said the children "left with their family."

The boy's friends and family gathered at his home to hold a rosary in Giovanni's memory Sunday. More than 600 people attended, including players from the two soccer clubs where Giovanni played, and his classmates from Eisenhower Elementary School.

Giovanni lived at the park with his mother, Maria Mezquite; father, Maximino Tejamanil; and brother Christian Tejamanil.

Maria and Maximino emigrated to the United States in 1990 from their native Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico, to search for a better life.

On Monday, friends and family members shared memories of the boy who was known for his prowess with a soccer ball and his love for his family and friends.

"He loved rap music, he also did arts and crafts, he drew stuff that made people laugh, fun drawings, he was a fast runner, and he had lots of friends," said Adrian Dothe, 10, Giovanni's classmate.

"He's the superstar in the family," said Pascual Tejamanil. "He's a very sweet boy, everyone loves him, he is the best everywhere he goes, he has respect from everybody."

Christian Tejamanil said he still can't believe his brother is gone.

"When I wake up, I think my brother is here sleeping really late, I think he is still out playing with his friends. He was going to be the best soccer player."

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, this is the sixth traffic crash-related fatality in Clearwater since the beginning of the year and the 41st in Pinellas County.

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