DADE CITY — A popular math teacher died Sunday, a week after being hit by a sport utility vehicle — bringing the death toll of Tampa Bay area bicyclists to seven in less than three months.
Brad Ash, 41, of Dade City was riding east on the right side of two-lane St. Joe Road at 5:39 p.m. Oct. 4 when he was struck by a 2005 GMC also heading east, said Sgt. Larry Kraus of the Florida Highway Patrol.
The SUV hit the bicycle from behind. Ash, who was wearing a helmet and eye protection, was thrown from the bike. He was flown to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where he stayed until he died.
The SUV driver, Jennifer Tuttle, 30, of Dade City has not been charged. Reports showed no evidence of alcohol or drug use.
"There was nothing suspicious," Kraus said.
Ash taught math at Pasco Middle School for nearly two years. Before that he taught at Pasco High School.
Students learned of his death about 8:30 a.m. Monday. The school district sent a crisis team to help them cope.
"He was more than a teacher to us," said Jenna Pavek, 12, whose father, Jim, once owned a cycling shop. "He connected with us."
Ash used Skittles candy to help teach division. He sponsored the National Junior Honor Society and a rock band club. He once wore a kilt to spring fling and grew his sandy hair long so he could donate it to make wigs for kids with cancer.
He loved riding his bicycle and would sometimes ride alone for 30 miles, though he also rode with a group.
"He really connected with God that way," said Jacob Hill, worship and arts director for New Walk Church, where Ash played bass guitar.
Local law enforcement say it hasn't been a particularly deadly year for cyclists, but the past two months are unusual. The causes and scenarios vary.
On July 29, LeRoy "Roy" Collins Jr., 75, a retired two-star admiral and executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, was struck by an SUV in a crosswalk in South Tampa. The driver, who tried to help Collins at the scene, wasn't cited or charged.
On Sept. 9, Chiles Elementary School art teacher Joe Dyals, 46, died after crossing the path of a minivan in Tampa.
The next day, New Port Richey resident Stephen Allen Ivey, 52, rode onto a two-lane road without stopping, police said. Ivey struck a car that had the right of way. He wasn't wearing a helmet, police said, and was ejected from his bike.
St. Petersburg police are still going through tips and evidence in the Sept. 12 hit-and-run crash that killed Neil Alan Smith, a Crab Shack Restaurant dishwasher.
Kayoko Ishizuka, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Florida, was killed Sept. 25 in a hit-and-run on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. Deputies questioned a man and impounded his red Ford Explorer, but no arrests have been made.
And on Oct. 1, as area cyclists were preparing for a vigil to honor those killed in a two-month wave of fatalities, they got word of one more: Diane M. Vega, 53, was hit by a sport utility vehicle that ran a red light in Tampa.