Times Staff Writer
RIVERVIEW — Cars and people collected in the front yard of a Riverview home Monday as family members consoled one another over the loss of a 15-year-old boy they loved.
Nativada Cervantes was riding in the bed of a 2002 Dodge Ram early Saturday when his older brother lost control of the truck and slammed into a light pole.
The vehicle carrying six people spun across U.S. 41 near First Street SW in Ruskin, throwing Nativada and another teen from the truck bed.
Nativada died at the scene. The five others, including driver Cesar Cervantes, 23, were injured.
Florida Highway Patrol investigators are looking into whether alcohol played a role. No one has been charged.
Nativada's aunt, Rosa Rosario, 34, of Holly Springs, N.C., said her nephew and her son, Marco Rosario, 15, who was also in the truck, were closer than siblings.
"This went beyond brothers," she said. "There's no explanation of the bond."
The boys' mothers were pregnant with them at the same time. The result was that the cousins were almost inseparable until part of the family moved from Gibsonton to North Carolina.
Cesar Cervantes lives in Holly Springs as well, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The family, including Marco, traveled to Florida to spend the Christmas holiday with family.
Nativada loved animals, Rosario said. "He had fish and birds. He wanted to help stray dogs. … He loved all animals. … It was just a passion of his."
Also injured in the crash were Nativada's cousins, Lazaro Espinosa, 17, of Gibsonton and Victor Cervantes, 15, of Riverview, the highway patrol said. Lazaro, who investigators said was also thrown from the truck bed, was in fair condition at Tampa General Hospital on Monday. Victor's injuries were minor.
Cesar Cervantes suffered serious injuries but had been released from TGH by Monday.
Also hurt was a friend of the group, Melane Rodriguez, whose age was unknown. She also was discharged from TGH.
Garriel Cervantes, 18, of Riverview, was the only person to escape unhurt, according to an FHP report.
Patrol Sgt. Larry Kraus said that unless troopers find evidence of negligence, the most likely charge against the driver would be a seat belt violation.
State law does not permit minors to ride unsecured in a truck bed on interstates or turnpikes, but the same rule does not exist for state highways.
Maria Cervantes, Nativada's mother, sounded stunned when asked about her son.
"He was very friendly," she said, before a long pause. "He was having fun like everybody else, like any teenager."
She said she hadn't spoken with son Cesar Cervantes about the crash. "They don't want to talk about it," she said.
Times researcher John Martin and Times staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report.