PLANT CITY — Charles T. Pearson drove bulldozers. He hunted and fished, and had a girlfriend who drove a motorcycle.
When his mother worried about him riding it, the free-spirited 28-year-old answered in his usual upbeat tone: "I'm an organ donor. It's okay."
His mother remembered his words Saturday morning, when she got the phone call about the hit-and-run accident.
Mr. Pearson had been driving, his girlfriend sitting beside him, when a car hit the back of his 1988 Chevy station wagon just after 2 a.m., causing him to lose control.
The couple, not wearing seat belts, were ejected onto U.S. 92.
The driver who hit them ran away, leaving the car behind.
Mr. Pearson died at Tampa General Hospital nine hours later. His 21-year-old girlfriend, Lisa Vaught, survived, with stitches and a fractured back.
They had gone to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings that night, she said. They were driving home because he had to work the next morning.
The Florida Highway Patrol spent that morning searching for the other driver who deserted the 1995 Volkswagen four-door vehicle.
On Sunday, family members said they'd been told a male teenager was tracked down, but the Florida Highway Patrol had not confirmed an arrest.
"I'm mad at the person who did this for being so irresponsible and fleeing the scene," Vaught said. "He destroyed so many people's lives, and took one of the most amazing people I've ever met."
Mr. Pearson, who graduated from Plant City High School, served in the U.S. Army and then had a career in construction, "would do anything for anyone," his sister April Bass said.
His final contribution, to three different recipients:
His liver, his kidneys and his heart.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354.