WEEKI WACHEE — They came to celebrate a young man who found a rare balance between fun with friends and stoicism with soldiers.
If anyone seemed destined for a promising future, friends say, it was Andrew Altringer. That the 18-year-old killed himself shortly after hitting a woman with his car Thursday night made his funeral on Tuesday afternoon even more baffling.
"I think Andrew thought he had gone past some imaginary point of no return," said Gino Ortiz, one of Altringer's teachers at Central High School. "We just want the kids to understand that there's always hope."
Ortiz has been spreading that message in recent days to students, and he has been joined by an unlikely ally: Ann Wagner, Altringer's mother.
Mrs. Wagner went to the school on Monday to speak with members of the Diversified Education Club of America, one of her son's favorite clubs. Ortiz said she asked to be allowed to talk to the class.
"I was very honored … I was shocked," Ortiz said. "It meant so much to these kids. They've really been trying to get through this and process their grief over the past three or four days."
A senior at Central, Altringer fatally shot himself with an SKS rifle Thursday night during a traffic stop in Levy County after he hit Alicia Anderson while speeding along a country road in northwest Hernando County. Anderson, 22, was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.
An accident report by the Levy County Sheriff's Office released on Tuesday provides more details of the events that night.
Altringer had drunk six beers and a 17-year-old passenger, Kyle Case, had drunk four beers while driving around in Altringer's 2008 Mazda before running into Anderson as she was walking alone. Case said he saw Anderson in a ditch and they fled, believing they had killed the woman, according to the report.
Altringer dropped Case off at Case's home. "Mr. Case did make a phone call to Mr. Altringer and told him that he needed to go home," Capt. Evan Sullivan said. "But Mr. Altringer kept on going."
On Tuesday afternoon, about 300 people went to the Glen Lakes Country Club for a somber, but brief, memorial service. The ceremony was held near a lake on the grounds of the club, attended by family, friends, classmates and members of Altringer's Florida National Guard's 690th Military Police Unit.
Ortiz opened the service with stories about an outgoing young man who "would take things apart and sometimes put them all back together."
Altringer was honored as a soldier, with members of the National Guard giving American flags to his mother and father and dog tags to his four siblings. A bugler played Taps.
Afterward, guests went upstairs for dinner and more stories about Altringer.
"I'm glad to see all these people here — it helps to start putting closure to this," said Dalton Whitelaw, a friend of Altringer's and a senior at Central. "This helps tremendously with the grieving process."
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.