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Cause unknown in death of Pasco girl found at bottom of pool

ZEPHYRHILLS — Valeriya Kozynets was a good swimmer who ran track and played soccer during her freshman year at Zephyrhills High School.

Her athletic abilities left those who knew the 15-year-old wondering how she ended up at the bottom of the community pool at Lake Bernadette about 2 p.m. Tuesday. A couple of boys pulled her out and a staff member tried CPR, but the teen was unresponsive.

Valeriya, one in a set of twins, was taken to Florida Hospital Zephyrhills and pronounced dead Tuesday afternoon.

"I was kind of in shock," said friend Lindsay Gorgen, 16, of Zephyrhills. "I don't know how that would happen. She knows how to swim."

It is unclear whether Valeriya drowned or if her death was caused by something else. The medical examiner cannot determine a cause of death until toxicology results come back in six to eight weeks, said Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. There were no signs of trauma, and authorities do not suspect foul play, he said.

A man and a woman who were leaving Valeriya's driveway at 5926 Button Flower Court on Wednesday declined to comment.

The community center's pool was closed on Wednesday, but will re-open on Friday, said manager Dan Nesselt.

Meanwhile, school officials are trying to figure out what could have gone wrong while Valeriya did laps in the pool.

Shannon Mathews, girls swimming coach at Zephyrhills High School, said Valeriya wasn't on the school's swimming team as a freshman, but was pre-conditioning this summer at the school and the Hercules Aquatic Center with plans to try out for the team this year.

She would have automatically made the team in the fall as a sophomore, Mathews said, because no cuts are made during tryouts.

"She was extremely coachable and showed great natural talent," Mathews said. "She was a great athlete."

Tim S. Urban, assistant principal, said grief counselors may be sent to Wesley Chapel High School, where Zephyrhills students take summer school courses.

"She'll be a great loss to Zephyrhills High School and the community as a whole," he said.

Gorgen said she hung out with Valeriya a few times this summer at the community pool. They met about six months ago, Gorgen said.

"She was really outgoing," Gorgen said. "She was talkative, and a fun person to be around . . . I don't think it's clicked yet that she's gone."

On her MySpace page, Valeriya wrote a short description of herself:

"Heyy my name is Valeriya i love to have fun and i love people who want to have fun well write me and get to know me :) Peace to ya :)

After Valeriya's death, her twin sister, Anastasiya, wrote this message on her MySpace page:

Rest in peace my best sister ever.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

Cause unknown in death of Pasco girl found at bottom of pool 07/22/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 9:05pm]
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