Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

Friends mourn charismatic teen killed in crash

RECOMMENDED READING


LUTZ — More than 100 people gathered along the track and prayed for the friend whom they still couldn't believe would never make them laugh, wrestle competitively or sing country songs again.

Friends and teachers held a vigil at Steinbrenner High School's stadium Sunday night to honor senior Frank Vasquez, who died after a driver slammed into and flipped his parked SUV early Saturday.

Vasquez, 17, died Sunday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, the Florida Highway Patrol said. His girlfriend, Kaylee E. Baer, 16, of Lutz, was last reported in serious condition at St. Joseph's Hospital on Saturday.

The driver, Matthew J. West, 23, who authorities say initially fled the scene, turned himself in at the Pasco County Jail on Saturday. The case is under investigation and no charges have been filed, troopers said.

Friends called Vasquez an outgoing, caring person who had a big heart and was always the center of the party.

"He was the most caring person I ever met, and he always put others before himself," said senior Maresa Gonzalez, who first met Vasquez in sixth grade. "He was always cracking jokes, always making people laugh. He was definitely someone who brought positive energy to every situation."

Vasquez and Gonzalez, 18, volunteered and fed the homeless together every Tuesday through Metropolitan Ministries and their church, Grace Family Church. Gonzalez said Vasquez was striving to better other people's lives.

Vasquez, Baer and Gonzalez joined some other friends at a Keith Urban concert Friday night at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Vasquez loved everything about country music and was always going to concerts, Gonzalez said.

"He's definitely a country boy," Gonzalez said. "I know that before the accident happened, he was having a great time. He went out having a great time."

At the memorial Sunday night, Gonzalez and friends were flooded with emotions, praying for Vasquez's family and Baer's recovery while also sharing memories and stories of Vasquez.

"It's very surreal," Gonzalez said. "I still can't believe he's actually gone. Things are going to be different, but, all in all, our school in general became a lot closer tonight. We put all the drama aside and came together as a big family."

Friends and classmates flooded Twitter on Sunday night with the hashtag #RIPFrank, tweeting pictures of the memorial and sharing stories of their friend.

Vasquez, of Lutz, and Baer had returned from the concert when West hit Vasquez's parked SUV at a dead end on Sunlake Drive, north of County Line Road, about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, crash investigators said.

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

Comments

Motorcyclist, 27, dies in crash with taxi cab in Largo

LARGO — A motorcyclist died after crashing into a taxi cab Thursday morning, police reported.Sydney Pender, 27, was riding a 2012 Yamaha motorcycle southbound on 66th Street about 10:30, according to a Largo Police Department release.At the same time...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Hernando deputies make arrest after finding body of dead woman Wednesday

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 32-year-old man Wednesday who they say killed a woman.Joshua Carroll, 32, faces a charge of second-degree murder.Deputies found the body of the woman, who was not identified, at 15013 Old St...
Published: 11/22/17
Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

TAMPA — The mother of a 7-year-old girl stood weeping in a federal courtroom, demanding lifelong prison sentences for the Tampa couple who sexually assaulted her daughter while the girl’s own father took videos and pictures. "I don’t want my child to...
Published: 11/22/17
Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

A former Brooksville school volunteer accused of sexually assaulting teenage foreign exchange students who were under his care was found dead last week, a day before he was due in court on the charges.The body of Bruce McAllister was found at the bas...
Published: 11/22/17
Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

PORT RICHEY — Crews from Pasco County fire rescue were battling a fire Wednesday morning that sent smoke pouring through the roof at the Brass Flamingo adult club, 9034 U.S. 19.The fire forced the closing of U.S. 19 but traffic was flowing again by 6...
Published: 11/22/17
Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

TAMPA — Before the killings began, Bob and Vivian Fiallo envisioned having Thanksgiving at their North Carolina mountain getaway.Most years, the couple spends the holiday at their tidy, brick-faced home on North Olney Avenue, in the heart of Southeas...
Published: 11/22/17
Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

CLEARWATER — The former Pepin Academies executive director who died in a watercraft and boat collision on Sept. 23 had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the level at which the state presumes someone is impaired, a toxicology report showed. Just befo...
Published: 11/21/17
Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man who ended a series of burglaries by breaking into the home of a sleeping woman, where he climbed into her bed, was arrested Monday afternoon, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Russel Smith, 42, now faces three felony char...
Published: 11/21/17