TAMPA — Ashleigh Gordon, 18, and her boyfriend Cody Porter, 22, had just left for work.
Their Sunday commute would take them from their shared apartment near the Westfield Citrus Park mall in northern Hillsborough County, north on Gunn Highway and westward to the Arby's in New Port Richey, where the couple had first met.
But after passing Copeland Road around 9:30 a.m., Hillsborough deputies said, Gordon lost control. Her Pontiac Grand Am spun into the path of Donald Watts, 58, whose 2008 Infiniti crashed into the car's passenger side.
All three were transported to St. Joseph's Hospital on Sunday morning. Gordon and Watts, of New Port Richey, were treated for minor injuries and released. Porter died after surgery. Neither he nor Gordon had worn seat belts, deputies said.
"What happened Sunday was unreal," Porter's sister, Alexis Wilkins, 24, said on Monday. "It shouldn't have happened."
Porter and Gordon, she said, started dating three months ago after meeting behind the fast-food counter. Porter, a graduate of Ridgewood High School in New Port Richey, moved in with Gordon soon after.
"He was a cool person. Very loving, very kind," said Kendra Silvia, 20, who first met Porter at Bayonet Point Middle School. "People have been talking about … how someone so nice like that could lose his life so easily."
Wilkins said the family is planning to hold an open-casket funeral for Porter at Trinity Memorial Gardens on State Road 54.
"Not being able to say goodbye — that's the worst part," Wilkins said. "Not being able to tell him we love him, and that we hope he likes it in heaven."
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 869-6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.