Before the age of 24, Christopher Burek Jr. had built a dream — a replica of a 1960 Triumph motorcycle. He bent the steel tubing for its frame, welded the brackets to bolt in the engine and hammered a seat out of sheet metal. It had no cushion and couldn't hit 60 mph, said Burek's father, but it was his.
Burek's life ended beside it in Sarasota County early Tuesday when he drove head-on into a semitrailer truck, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
He was driving the wrong way at 12:55 a.m. on Interstate 75 at mile marker 194, north of Venice, when he was hit. The St. Petersburg man was pronounced dead at Venice Regional Hospital. The semi driver was not injured.
Troopers did not report where Burek was going or why he was going the wrong way.
Christopher Burek Sr. said his son was a candid, intelligent kid who loved to work with his hands. A 1938 Ford truck and an old Harley-Davidson Sportster — his toys— were endlessly tinkered with in his father's Pinellas Park shop, the Little Garage.
"He just enjoyed the thrill of it," Burek said. "He could have had an easy job, but he preferred to do the grunt work."
In his teen years, he broke a leg while riding a dirt bike. Two years ago, he hopped back on and hurt his other leg. He never wore a helmet.
Burek's garage filled with his son's shocked friends Tuesday, he said, even as he continued to work.
"This is rough," he said, the old tools lining his garage. "I've got to keep my mind off of it."
Times staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report. Drew Harwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386.