Saturday, April 21, 2018
Public safety

Gandy crash victim remembered for his love of music

ST. PETERSBURG — Twelve days ago, Manny Bonet Jr. went to Miami to deejay his father's 60th birthday party.

The 29-year-old, known as DJ Stylez, had only been spinning for a couple years, but his passion for it was obvious. He was into hip hop and reggaeton, but played lots of Santana that day.

"That's the music I like," his father, Manny Bonet Sr., said Wednesday. "He played it for me, and he did a good job."

That was the last time he saw his son.

On Tuesday night, the Tampa man crashed near the Gandy Bridge. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating whether texting contributed to the crash; they found a cellphone with text messages on it at the scene.

"Kids nowadays, they're constantly on the telephone," Manny Bonet Sr. said. "It's unfortunate."

Troopers said Manny Bonet Jr. lost control of his white 2010 Honda at about 7:40 p.m. just west of the bridge. They said the speeding sedan veered onto a grassy median and into a power pole and a set of palm trees east of San Fernando Boulevard NE.

Bonet, who was alone, was thrown from the car. He wasn't wearing a seat belt.

"A distracted driving issue is something we are definitely considering," said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, an FHP spokesman. "I am not prepared to say he was texting at the moment that he lost control. . . . We may never know officially. There's a whole lot of investigation that still has to go on."

The incident comes just days after state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, filed a bill to ban texting while driving. Similar bills have been proposed in the Legislature in recent years, but have not been passed.

Bonet's family and friends are hoping for more answers.

"I can't believe it," said Freddy Fernando, 30, of Tampa. Fernando, a reggaeton artist, met Manny Bonet Jr. a couple of years ago at an Ybor City club.

Back then, Fernando said, Manny Bonet Jr. was just starting to deejay. But he stood out, Fernando said, because he incorporated local music into his sets.

"He would go out of his way to get somebody's music," Fernando said. "For the little time that he was doing it, he was really good."

Manny Bonet Sr. said his son was diagnosed with mental illness issues as a boy and didn't work because he was on disability. He was outgoing and friendly.

"He was always happy, always smiling," said girlfriend Maureen Doucette, 26, of Plant City. "He knew how to cheer me up. He was just an all-around good guy."

Doucette said she never saw him text while behind the wheel. If the phone rang or he got a message, he asked her to handle it.

"When I was in the car with him, I did it for him," she said.

Doucette said the last text she got from him was a couple of hours before the crash. He was at the store shopping for Christmas decorations with his mother.

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