MASARYKTOWN — Though only recently turned 17, Justin White had plenty of riding experience with horses. But not bicycles.
As a dutiful, outdoors-loving teen, White eagerly tended to the horses around his family's 27-acre farm in Masaryktown and often taught younger children how to ride on them.
However, his mother was wary of her son riding on bikes and forbade Justin from having one.
"He hadn't owned a bicycle since he was 4 years old," Sue White said Monday. "He was not allowed to ride a bicycle — I never gave him permission for that."
White still doesn't know why Justin was biking Saturday, when he became the first of two teenage boys riding bicycles who were struck by vehicles and killed in separate accidents that night. The accidents happened about an hour apart on narrow two-lane roads, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Justin White, a junior at Hernando High, was killed in the first collision about 9 p.m. on Cedar Lane, north of State Road 50. He was struck by a 1998 Ford pickup while riding north on Cedar Lane. Timothy D. Price, 45, of Brooksville was passing another car when he hit the teen, according to the FHP.
The other accident came about 10 p.m. on Powell Road.
Scott Avery, a 17-year-old junior at Nature Coast Technical High, died in that accident.
Avery was riding east on Powell Road when his bicycle was struck from behind by a two-door 1997 Saturn. The driver of the Saturn fled the scene but was identified by the FHP as Leo Salvato, 36, of Spring Hill.
Salvato was found later and will face charges, according to the FHP. Salvato has numerous infractions on his Florida driving record, and he was labeled a habitual traffic offender in June 2003.
On Monday, with only a few days left in the school year, family members, friends and school officials tried to come to grips with the losses of White and Avery. News of the fatal accidents quickly made the rounds over the weekend, and hundreds of people hastily gathered at Nature Coast's football field Sunday night for a candlelight vigil for Avery.
"It was overwhelming the number of people that were out there," said Jamie Joyner, head football coach at Nature Coast. "It was definitely comforting to see (Avery's) family and friends have that opportunity to see how much he was appreciated within the school."
Meanwhile, Sue White fondly remembered a boy who aspired to someday join the Army and then become a cowboy — anything that would keep him outside. Only days earlier, Justin had celebrated his 17th birthday with a large cake, a festive dinner at an Italian restaurant and, most importantly, a brand new cowboy hat.
"He already thought he was a cowboy," she said of Justin, who was the youngest of five siblings. "He worked on the farm a lot and was a home kind of kid. He liked to be busy."
Still, Sue White remains upset that someone — she's still unsure who it was — loaned him a bike to ride home that Saturday evening.
She had prepared to pick him up at a nearby gas station when she learned he had taken off into the night.
"I was very upset that someone would put him on a bike," she said. "I never let him have bicycles because I worried that something like this might happen."
Joel Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or 754-6120.