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Two Hillsborough boys hit, killed on bicycles in two days

TAMPA — In a span of less than 24 hours, two children died in bicycle accidents on busy Hillsborough County streets.

In both cases, authorities said, the children were hit by teenage drivers.

Mitchell Bowers, a seventh-grader at Martinez Middle School in Lutz, was killed Tuesday when a car struck him at 6:45 p.m. as he was riding a bike near Van Dyke Road and Currie Ford Drive.

On Wednesday afternoon, 11-year-old Bryan Lebron Jr. was struck while crossing Dale Mabry Highway at W Bay Avenue on a bicycle. He was trying to catch up with his dad and brother, who had already ridden their bikes to the median.

Neither of the two boys was wearing a helmet, officials said. Both cases appear to be accidents, and no charges are expected against either driver.

Mitchell, 12, was a straight-A student known as much for his charming manner as his academic successes, relatives and friends said.

Lee Bowers said his son was not just an exceptional student, but an athlete and a Boy Scout with a unique ability to get a laugh from those around him.

"He really bonded with a good group of guys through school and the Boy Scouts," said Bowers, who moved his family to Lutz from South Florida two years ago. "He had gained a lot of confidence in the last year and he seemed to have blossomed since he got to Tampa."

In addition to playing youth football, Mitchell also dabbled in competitive surfing and recently tried out for his school's soccer team. He talked about wanting to study engineering at Stanford University, but also expressed interest in designing video games.

In his spare time at the family's home off Van Dyke Road, Mitchell would often explore the neighborhood streets on his bike. Only recently did he venture onto the more heavily traveled streets such as Van Dyke Road.

It was there, at the edge of his neighborhood, that a 2001 Honda struck him Tuesday night. The car, driven by Bola Rezk-Alla of Odessa, was traveling west on Van Dyke — the same direction as Bowers — and approaching Currie Ford Drive, when the boy turned left in front of the vehicle, according to a sheriff's report. Rezk-Alla, 17, was unable to stop and struck Mitchell, officials said.

Rescue workers took Mitchell to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died. Rezk-Alla could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Friends and instructors agreed that Bower had a bright future.

"Mitch was the kind of kid that any teacher just can't help but fall in love with," said Kathleen Baten, a teacher at Martinez Middle School who taught him in a class called "future city."

The class, an elective science-based course, has student teams design and build a miniature model of a futuristic city, complete with sources of power, housing for residents and methods of food production. Bowers and a team of two other students won first place at a future city regional competition last weekend in St. Petersburg.

The other students on Mitchell's team have dedicated their project to him as they go on to the national competition.

"They had a hard time today, but they felt like he would say 'go on to nationals and win it,' " Baten said. "He was the kind of kid who loved learning for the sake of learning. It breaks your heart to say the least."

Bryan Lebron was hit by a 2002 Kia driven by Kayla Arnold, 16, a junior at Robinson High, school district officials confirmed.

She was taken to a hospital for emotional distress after the accident, Tampa police said.

Times staff writers Robbyn Mitchell and Shelley Rossetter contributed to this report. Reach Dan Sullivan at (813) 226-3321 or dsullivan@sptimes.com.

Two Hillsborough boys hit, killed on bicycles in two days 01/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 11:57pm]
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